What’s the old bronc rider saying? “If bulls were supposed to be ridden, Paul Revere would have come through town on a bull instead of a horse.”
“Horses scare me, especially the ones that buck. A person can get hurt trying to ride those rodeo broncs.”
Yet, the one making the follow-up comment quickly adds: “Riding bulls doesn’t scare me a bit. Oh, a cowboy can get hurt, and there are injuries in the bull riding, but they can be kept to a minimum if you pay attention.
“Sometimes that might even mean not completing a ride to prevent injury, so you can win the next rodeo,” analyzed Cooper Kanngieser, a many times champion competing in the most dangerous sport participated in by man.
True, most people think of mounting a fierce, often-ton-plus bovine bred and trained to buck that will even charge, run over and seemingly want to eat a cowboy upon dismounting, either by force or choice, as the riskiest endeavor anyone could ever undertake, but this Attica cowboy readily debates the opinion.
And, the bull rider has the credentials to do so, with certain authority, maybe even to the point of having a lengthy discussion with Paul Revere were he still around.
While doing so, Kanngieser feels no fear and argues there are in reality few hazards accompanying it, with the right mindset, attitude and paying close attention to business at hand.Cooper Kanngieser has been riding rodeo bucking bulls for nearly two decades, with very few injuries, and a high percentage of championship scores collecting nearly a million dollars from the professional sport he’s selected above all others.
Often mounting more than 100 of the very best bucking bulls in the sport, Cooper rides a high percentage of them, more than three-fourths on the average.
But, the champion readily admitted: “There are rides that it’s better to check out early when I can see a wreck is about to happen that might put me on the injury list and out of competition for an extended time. There’s always another rodeo to wintomorrow, rather than take a risk of getting hurt today,” contended the 30-year-old, five-foot-nine, 160-pound champion bull rider who padded his right for philosophy of the sport most recently at Strong City.
As the only contestant out of 27 entrants to make a qualified ride on two bulls at the Flint Hills Bull Blowout jackpot bull riding event, Cooper rode Number Eleven for 76 points in the long go-round, and came back to mark 87 points on Number 950 Sweat Stain in the short go-round.
That made the championship worth $1,096.04 in prize money, as presented to Cooper Kanngieser by fellow bull rider, bucking bull breeder, friend and event coordinator Kim Reyer.
Additionally, Kanngieser claimed a unique bronze bull riding trophy donated by Brad Miller and is family’s Jim’s Cowboy Shop at Emporia, and a special bull riding gear bag made and given by Bruce Brock of Brock’s Tack Shop at Cottonwood Falls.
“There were only four qualified rides out of 37 bulls coming from the famed Flint Hills Rodeo chutes at our bull riding, and Cooper made half of them, certainly deserving to be the winner,” Reyer stated emphatically.
Collecting the tokens of a champion always makes a cowboy’s heart take an extra thrill leap, but for Cooper Kanngieser it was even more special.
“I’ve been to Kim’s Flint Hills Blowout five years, ever since he started it, and this is the third time I’ve won. That really means a lot to me, considering both the quality and number of outstanding contestants that are always entered, and even more so, the caliber of rank bucking bulls that are always in the draw,” the champion proclaimed.
The, Kanngieser quickly added, “I’ve been to top rodeos and jackpot bull riding events throughout the country, and the Flint Hills Bull Blowout is truly one of the best there is. Kim Reyer and his family put so much hard work into it year around, and it pays off with the large crowd, quality entertainment and increasing popularity of bull riding excitement for everybody.”
Additionally, Cooper pointed out: “Kim’s Flint Hills Beef Genetics bucking bull breeding program is an elite asset to the competition, too, where bulls that they’ve produced are included in the draw. I’ve bought bulls that they’ve bred for my own bucking bull herd. Their future there is really strong.”
Again, unlike just about anybody who’s dreamed lifelong of being a cowboy, Kanngieser hasn’t envisioned the typical way with horses whether bucking, as a roping mount or gathering cattle, but rather, obviously as a bull rider.
“That’s all I’ve really ever wanted to be is a cowboy bull rider. My dad Mark was my idol; he rode bulls and that’s what I wanted to do, too. I never actually saw my dad ride bulls, but he did, and he was and always has been my coach and biggest supporter,” Cooper credited.
Once more unlike many getting started in the sport, Cooper never participated in mutton busting or sheep riding. “I started riding calves and steers when I was four-years-old, and then junior bulls followed by young two-year-old bulls, and I was riding big competition bulls when I turned 14,” he reflected.
“It’s always just come naturally to me. I never was afraid. Riding rodeo bulls was always what I wanted to do, and I did everything in my power to make a qualified ride to win. It’s impossible to ride them all, but that’s my objective every time I get on,” Cooper continued.
After playing basketball and going out for track in his early school days, Cooper decided to dedicate all of his efforts to the sport he’s always loved most: rodeo.
Competing in the Kansas High School Rodeo Association, Cooper was the state champion three years, going to the National High School Rodeo Finals. “I won third there one year, and should have won the whole thing another time. I rode all of my bulls, but just didn’t have good enough draws,” he remembered.
Of course, that impressive record earned Cooper a scholarship on the prestigious rodeo team at Vernon College in Vernon, Texas. “But, after my freshman year, I started going to professional rodeos. I got my PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) card when I was 20, and really ended up not going to that many college rodeos after that,” he said.
Professional Bull Riders (PBR) and Championship Bull Riders (CBR) events were added to his busy schedule, and Cooper mounted more than 300 bulls annually in his most active years.
Making the whistle on more than 80 percent of the bulls he mounted, in his best years, Cooper qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas two times, placing 10th one year, and was 12th and 13th, in yearend standings. “I was reserve world champion in CBR one year, too,” he added.
His CBR Cinch Tour wins include Nashville, Tenn., Huron, SD., El Paso, Texas, and Del Rio, Texas, all in 1009; Tulsa, Oklahoma, 2010; and Fort Worth, Texas, 2011.
Fond memories are of Cooper’s two highest marked bull rides. “I won the Nashville, Tennessee Shootout, with 93 points on Ronnie, and also won Bremerton, Washington, with 93 points on Sunshine,” he remembered.
“Best moments in my career have been winning Del Rio, Nashville, Fort Worth and the Dodge National Circuit Finals,” Cooper added.
As impressive as this all is, considering the quality of bulls Cooper has been mounting, he said, “I’ve been riding bulls for two decades, and in reality the best year, percentagewise was when I was a junior in high school. I didn’t get bucked off one bull, but I was really too young to join the pro ranks, yet.”
Not that rodeo really takes a sideline in his adrenaline flow today, Cooper doesn’t go as hard as he used to.
“I compete in all of Jimmy Crowther’s New Frontier and JC Rodeo Company rodeos, and the big CBR events, but I have a family, and a business that hold me down some from when I was younger and single,” he said.
Still, his record is better than most. “I’ve had a really good year, qualified on more than 75 percent, and won several good rodeos. I’m leading the bull riding in the Central Plains Rodeo Association, and shouldn’t have any trouble being the yearend champion,” calculated Cooper, who still often travels to events with his longtime bull riding champion friend Lucas Dick.
Following again in his dad Mark’s boot steps, Cooper has a commercial backhoe business that keeps him working throughout the week. “I learned the trade from Dad and now subcontract pipeline jobs and the like through him. I like it,” Cooper commented.
His family keeps the champion closer to home, too. “My wife Kylie is a barrel racer and trains barrel horses, and our son seven-year-old Talan is already a cowboy winning the all-around title in the junior rodeo association. I’m not encouraging him to be a bull rider, but he says that’s what he wants to do, and does show ability riding sheep and calves,” said Cooper, noting that his wife has another rodeo baby on the way.
As if he isn’t busy enough, Cooper has Kanngieser Cattle Company a bucking bull breeding program in partnership with his dad. “We have 25 rodeo cows and about 30 prospect bucking bulls now, from yearlings to four-year-olds,” he counted.
“Actually, our program had one foundation cow, a Watusi crossbred, that we’ve saved heifers out of and every one of her sons and grandsons bucks. One bull we produced called Astroid was the PBR champion, and we’re really proud of him. That’s when breeding bucking bulls turned from a hobby to a business for us,” related Cooper, insisting that “Astroid is my favorite bull of all time.”
Kanngieser rodeo cows are mated to a top National Finals Rodeo bull they produced called 331 Cotton. “We also do artificial insemination, and I like to try different bull crosses with certain cows. I actually own 2,500 straws of bucking bull semen, for future use,” Cooper said.
Also involved in a family farming operation, Cooper with his dad and grandpa Ed Kanngieser have 125 Angus stock cows, and a cropping operation. “Right after my dad, my grandpa is my mentor. We all work together. It’s such a great family deal,” Cooper declared.
Physical fitness is key to riding bulls, and the cowboy’s day job keeps him strong body and mind. “I don’t have any other exercise program. I just work hard every day,” Cooper said.
Always sporting a vest for upper body protection, the champion does not wear a helmet, like is common among many bull riders today. “I don’t hold it against others for wearing a helmet, but I’ve always figured if I did that I was probably too scared to get on, and I never have been,” Cooper contended.
However, the champion commented, “I really didn’t know if I’d be competing as successfully as I am now. There are a lot of bull riders who I rode with through the years, who have already retired from the sport. I’ll keep going as long as my health permits, and I’m paying my way, and making some money,” Cooper verified.
Relating to his initial philosophy, Cooper Kanngieser pointed out, “I did break my leg when I was in high school, but that’s the only serious injury I’ve ever had, other than getting my pride hurt from getting bucked off.”
Quality of bucking bulls is the highest ever in the sport, Cooper assured. “Nearly every bull I get on today is one that a check can be collected, if I make a qualified ride. And, bull riders’ ability to ride is now the highest ever, too. These cowboys are athletes today,” he stated.
However, concern was expressed about the number of entries in bull riding contests, compared to just a few years ago. “Because the bulls are all tough, it seems to have deterred some young cowboys from getting into the sport. My objective is to help everyone who has any interest and encourage them to compete.
“Now, if they just want to show off for their girlfriend or impress somebody, I’m not going to assist them. But, if there is the desire, I’ll do everything I can to help a young person learn to be a champion bull rider,” Cooper continued.
Future of the sport of bull riding is forever strong though in Cooper Kanngieser’s opinion.
“It’s not unlike professional car racing. There are so many variables, and so many things that can happen. Everybody is looking for the next crash, and with bull riding there’s the element of unexpected to the ultimate. Nothing’s predictable with the bulls, and cowboys are always getting in some kind of a storm they have to get out of. Spectators just love it,” the champion concluded.