story courtesy of Dan Stewart Event: Bull Riding Branch of service: US Army Years of service: 17 Duty Stations: Fort Riley, Kansas Fort Sill, Oklahoma […]
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Meet the Member Steele Blake Schwonke
story by James Hastings
Bullrider Steele Blake Schwonke, 24, grew up in Millbrook, Alabama but lived for about nine years in Azle, Texas. He was extremely talented from a young age at bowhunting both fish or deer and competed in several tournaments. Hunting along with rodeo is a huge passion for Steele and he owns his own hunting company Crimson Addictions, www.CrimsonAddictionscom. His real name is Steele but people think its Blake which is actually his middle name. He was a high school football star player but an elbow/tendon issue prevented a further career.
Steele joined the Army army seven days out of high school and has now served six years. He spent three years stationed in Germany and has had two deployments to Afghanistan, one for nine months and one for a year. Steele received two valorous awards during those deployments. He is an E-5 in the army and is currently stationed at Fort Bragg. He is a part of the 57th Sapper Company and they do the rough terrain jumps. While in Germany Steele was able to keep competing and won a bull riding championship.
Because of his continuous tempo for deployments 2014 was the first year he has been able to consistently ride in the states. Steele unfortunately broke his collarbone and had to miss the carousel finals due to a plate being surgically put in, but has since recovered and is back competing every chance he gets between his commitments to the Army. In his free time Steele travels to Illinois to hunt, helps train horses and run the farm.
Kristin Yde Schwonke, 23, a barrel racer, grew up in Raleigh, NC on a horse farm run by her parents. Kristin started out riding English and jumping before she could walk and continued to the age of 11 when her father convinced her to switch to western as he rode cutting and team penning horses. Kristin competed in NCHSRA for a couple years as well as local shows and rodeos. Kristin won EZ Run Pro Barrel Racing Open Champion, DC Western Youth Champion, and EZ Run Pro Youth Champion in 2005 around the age of 13. She graduated high school a semester early to start college and worked as a vet tech and is currently a dental assistant while also training horses. She also won NAPRA Rodeo Champion 2012, SEBRA Reserve Champion 2012, and EZ Run Pro Open Champion 2012. Kristin also won world’s toughest rodeo in North Carolina and placed all six years entered. Last year Kristin qualified in the top 10 for SEBRA finals. Kristin started and ran her own barrel racing association (COBRA) from 2013-2014 then decided competing was more fun. She currently trains and sells barrel horses as well as teaching lessons on the side. Her Main horses are Smack (Smokin Mack Frost); Bayou, (JTD Blew Bayou); Apollo, (Diego Decade), and is raising a futurity hopeful out of Apollo, a yearling named Bolt (High of the Decade).
Steele and Kristin met in April 2013 on the rodeo road from GA to VA and married August 2013, but didn’t tell anyone until they had a public ceremony in March 2014. They are currently living on family land in Benson, NC where they raise their horses and train. But when Steele separates from the Army it is their goal to move west and buy property to build their own ranch. Kristin would prefer Texas to be closer to more rodeo opportunities but Steele, because he is such an outdoorsman, would prefer the best of both by buying in Oklahoma or Kansas for hunting opportunities and the ability to rodeo as much as he wants. But for now they are happy being able to compete as much as possible and Steele is a true hero to our country. Being part of an organization like PAFRA only makes him that much more proud combining the military traditions with the world of rodeo.