RAPID CITY, S.D. – The greatest athletes in the world need a proving ground.
All major sports utilize the college ranks, where young players fine-tune their talents with hopes of developing into a long career. Baseball and golf have minor leagues, and basketball features a developmental league.
The United Bucking Horse Association is a system in place to help with the advancement of bucking horses for rodeo-related events. Now in its first year, the UBHA was created to showcase 2- and 3-year-old colts that were born to buck. The young horses perform with a mechanical dummy instead of a rider to allow the horses the opportunity to develop with age.
Through the 2014 season, the organization conducted 11 contests across the United States and Canada that featured the young bucking horses. Now the top 25 in each age division have qualified for the UBHA World Finals, set for 5 p.m. (Mountain Standard Time) Friday, Nov. 14, at the Central States Fairgrounds in Rapid City.
“What I hear the most is people saying how much fun they’re having with is,” said Darcy Hollingsworth, a UBHA shareholder who raises bucking stock near Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. “There are still a lot of people that aren’t involved in it yet. I can see it growing to where we have regions, and I see a lot of people being up and building our finals into a really good deal.”
Hollingsworth has been around the game for many years. He rode broncs when he was younger and now enjoys watching these tremendous athletes.
“The UBHA competitions are just a fun thing to do,” he said. “There are a lot of good things coming.”
It starts with the world finals next week.
“Part of our concept is to keep this as an all-inclusive association where everyone is welcome to participate and everyone has an equal shot of winning,” French said. “We have several new people that had never raised bucking horses that have qualified for our finals. They have done well.
“The UBHA gives the small guy a chance to compete against the big guy and still have a chance at winning.”
The competition is an added flavor to the association. A key ingredient is serving as the minor league system for the young horses.
“I see this as being a proving ground for the future of the PRCA,” French said of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the sport’s premier sanctioning body that produces the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo every December. “This allows us to showcase the animals and get them out there to perspective buyers at the next level.
“These are the top colts in the United States and Canada. They earned the spot to be there. This will be the best set of bucking colts that have ever been together in one place.”