Throughout metro Denver and eastern Colorado, the skies opened with anger on Thursday night. Hail peppered homes, streets, and cars. In Greeley, the city became an outlier, seeing only a little bit of moisture. So, the crowds turned out at the Greeley Stampede and Kade Bruno continued to reign over the competition.
The 22-year-old delivered 173 points on two head to claim the saddle bronc title at the Playoff Series Rodeo.
“It was a raining a little bit when we were saddling up. But not too bad. It was an awesome crowd,” Bruno said. “They packed down for the short round. They were loud and engaged. My adrenaline was definitely pumping.”
In the first round, Bruno boarded Rocky Mountain Rodeo’s Thunder. He did not have a download of files on the horse, but trusted what his eyes told him from last season and registered an 88-point trip to win the round.
“My traveling partner (saddle bronc rider) Wyatt Casper had an 87 on him in Tucson. I knew he was going to be a really good horse,” Bruno said. “He had a move or two out of there, but it worked out.”
Bruno finished strong aboard Beutler & Son Rodeo’s That’s A Wrap with an 85-point ride. He watched this horse buck off cowboys at the National Finals Rodeo.
“He has so many good moves. I had to stay with him,” Bruno said.
Looking at Bruno’s resume, it’s fair to assume he grew up on horses. That wasn’t the case. His father Mike was a professional bull rider. Bruno figured that was his calling after he rode his first sheep at age 4. His freshman year of high school he tried saddle bronc riding, getting bucked off “probably my first 10 or 15 rides.” The failure, however, was short-lived. He loved the rhythm of the event. So, while riding bulls was his passion, his body betrayed him.
“My sophomore year of college at (Sheridan College in Wyoming) I stopped. I loved it. But I had trouble staying healthy. I would fall and hit my head or catch a toe. I was always beat up,” Bruno said. “With the broncs, once I picked up the timing, it was a lot easier to finish the rides.”
Only 22, Bruno is hitting his stride. He is in the top five in the saddle bronc riding PRCA | RAM World Standings after finishing 11th in the world last season following his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo berth. His victories in 2023 include Greeley, Lakeside (Calif.) and Mackay (Idaho). It has forced him to reframe expectations.
“For sure. In the beginning of the year, I set my sights on getting back to the finals. But the way the year has gone, the gold buckle is definitely on my mind,” Bruno said. “The rest of summer is about staying healthy, getting on good horses and doing my job and then seeing where it all ends up after those 10 days in December.”
Other winners at the $454,490 rodeo were bareback rider Mason Stuller (171.5 points on two head); steer wrestler Gus Franzen (12.5 seconds on three head); team ropers Derrick Begay/Colter Todd (16.9 seconds on three head); tie-down roper Shane Hanchey (25.2 seconds on three head); barrel racer Jordon Briggs (49.76 seconds on three runs); and bull rider Cannon Cravens (174.5 points on two head).
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