MANDAN, N.D. – With a $10 million purse, the National Finals Rodeo offers Ty Breuer a big chance to make some big money over 10 December nights.
For him, there’s much more to ProRodeo’s grand finale.
“The money’s a plus, but this is what I’ve dreamed of since I was a little kid,” said Breuer, 28, of Mandan. “When you actually get to go there, it’s a big deal. I know it’ll help that I’ve been there a few times. Those first couple of rounds are a little nerve racking, but that’s what we do it for … to get that feeling.”
He battled through the rigors of the 2018 season on the backs of bucking horses, earning $91,558 in the process. He sits No. 12 in the world standings heading to the NFR, set for Dec. 6-15 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. That’s where he can really cash in, with go-round winners earing more than $26,000 per round for 10 nights.
“I’m happy to be going back,” he said. “There are a lot of guys that should make Vegas, but they didn’t for whatever reason. I’m blessed to be one of the guys that was healthy all year, and I get to go back for the fourth time.”
He’s had a lot of support in the process. Whether it was his sponsors – D Day Trucking, Fort Pierre, S.D.; Long X Trading Co., Morristown, Ariz.; Cattleman’s Club Steakhouse in Pierre, S.D.; Rio Nutrition; Phoenix Performance Products; and B. Tuff Jeans – or his family or his traveling posse, Breuer knew there was a bunch of people who had his back.
In the last year, that herd grew by one, when Kayd Lee Breuer was born Nov. 9, 2017. She won’t remember her first NFR experience, which began less than a month after her birth, but her mom, Kelli, and dad certainly will. The Breuers are expecting a second child, due to the family in June.
“Life’s been a lot more fun and a lot more interesting,” Ty Breuer said. “It’s a lot busier, but she’s a blessing. Every day is fun to hang out with her, watch her grow up and get bigger.
“It’s crazy how you can have one of those bad days, then you come home and see them, and it’s a good day.”
He’s had a lot of good days in 2018. In fact, he secured eight victories through the season, including a couple of big ones in Deadwood, S.D., and Burwell, Neb. But to make more than $90,000 in a year, he needed to find his way to the pay window more often than not. That’s not as easy as it seems; only the top few earn paychecks at each rodeo.
“I had a good winter, then after that, it just kept rolling; it was probably one of the better winters I’ve ever had,” he said. “One of my goals this year was to make all the short rounds at the rodeos that had short rounds. I did that.”
Navigating the rodeo trail can be difficult, too. Cowboys will travel tens of thousands of miles each year in order to compete in the sport they love. Breuer spent this past season on the road with Steven Dent, J.R. Vezain and Tanner Aus, the latter of whom was the only one in the van who didn’t qualify for the NFR – only the top 15 in the world standings make the finale, and Aus finished 18th after spending time on the sidelines with an injury.
However, only Dent and Breuer will be able to compete. Vezain was hurt in an accident at a rodeo in Pasadena, Texas, in September when the horse he was riding flipped over and landed on top of the cowboy; he suffered a spinal injury and is still undergoing rehabilitation.
“I wasn’t there when he got hurt, but Tanner called me that night and told me about it,” Breuer said. “J.R.’s a fighter, and everyone looks up to J.R. and always will. When I got to travel with J.R. this year, I realized how inspirational he is in bareback riding. He could just pump you up.
“We had a really good crew, and we all had a pretty good year. If Tanner hadn’t gotten hurt, he would have qualified, too.”
While his traveling partners helped with confidence and the technical aspects that come with the game, his biggest support system was back home in central North Dakota.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without Kelli,” he said. “She also works and leaves about 4 o’clock in the morning to drive 50-some miles on the other side of Bismarck. She works hard all day, then comes home. I know it’s hard on her when I’m gone all summer, but she knows what it’s about and makes it work.
“With her, she takes care of all the business when I’m gone. She’s so supportive. There are times when I’m thinking about coming home, but she assures me that she needs me out on the road. That helps a lot, too.”
And having a toddler at home makes life on the road a little bit of a struggle.
“It gets harder to leave every time,” he said. “I love riding bareback horses, and as long as I can, I’ll do it. It helps that I travel with guys that are dads and are in the same boat. It just seems easier that everyone’s going through the same thing.”
The goal, of course, is to end the season atop the leaderboard and leave Las Vegas with the world champion’s gold buckle. To do that, cowboys need to earn the right to compete in Sin City. Breuer has confidence heading into the 10-day affair, having just won the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo title for the second straight year.
“It’s a good boost for Vegas, and I just got on some nice horses just to get tuned up for Vegas,” Breuer said. “My confidence is pretty good right now. Every year I’ve gone to the NFR, you experience the adrenaline there. A guy gets nervous, and I usually ride good when I’m nervous. That’s what I like so much about Vegas; even just thinking about it, my adrenaline starts going.
“I’m just looking forward to riding bucking horses. It’ll be fun that Kayd and Kelli will be there the whole time.”