“It takes a team to be a winner.”
Rodeo steer wrestlers know that for certain always recognizing importance of a top bulldogging horse, and a well mounted hazer.
Credit for that team importance gets foremost acknowledgement from Tanner Brunner who’s qualified for his first National Finals Rodeo.
Moving from ranking 47th in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in 2017, the Ramona, Kansas, bulldogger is sixth this year.
“It’s largely due to a team effort,” always humble Brunner insisted. “I have a great team of horses and a great team of traveling partners.”
“We are hauling Sean Mulligan’s bulldogging team, two mares and a gelding all three by his Lion’s Share Of Fame stallion,” Brunner said. “They are consistent and always give the steer wrestler the best opportunity with the draw.”
Just as important to the 25-year-old cowboy are his traveling partners Cole Edge, Chason Floyd and Cameron Morman.
“We’ve been going together all year with the same horses, and it’s really worked well for us all,” Brunner emphasized.
“Four guys in a truck make traveling easier. We trade driving and switch off on shifts to keep our bodies and minds fresh,” he added.
Holly, 10, and Miss Kitty, 11, are the cowboys’ bulldogging mares, while Slick, 11, is their main hazing gelding. The trailer is complete with Cameron Morman’s hazing horse Bull called into rodeo duties regularly as well.
Competing in 97 rodeos during the 2018 season, being a professional steer wrestler is a demanding life. “We live in the trailer on the road,” Brunner said. “It takes coordination to get to as many of the best rodeos that we can.”
Rules limit professional bulldoggers to select no more than 100 rodeos to count in yearend standings.
The top 15 cowboys in each event qualified for the National Finals Rodeo at Las Vegas, December 6-15.
Brunner’s traveling partners all three were just out of the top cut. “I’m really excited to make it and wish we all four could have made it. We try really hard to help each other do their best all year,” Brunner said.
Highlights of Brunner’s rodeo year were six major steer wrestling wins. “Turnaround of the season for me was winning at Cody, Wyoming, in early July,” he calculated. “Then, I had several good rodeos within a few weeks.”
The Cody Stampede win was worth $8,247. In 2018, he also won Santa Fe, New Mexico; Pleasant Grove, Utah; Stephenville, Texas; and Belle Fourche, South Dakota. First place was split at Sikeston, Missouri.
“It’s great when you’re on a roll,” Brunner said. “And when you’re not, you just got to keep your head down. Keep going on every steer like you do when you’re on a roll.”
Yearend winnings totaled $84,526. After starting his professional rodeo career in 2013, Brunner’s best standing before now was 28th, with $37,753 in 2016.
Brunner bulldogged at the Prairie Circuit Finals in Durant, Oklahoma, ending the year’s standings in fifth place, with $12,941.
At the All American Rodeo in Waco, Texas, Brunner said, “I placed in a couple of rounds, not enough for the semi-finals.”
This rodeo year officially ended in September. The 2019 rodeo season is already underway, and Brunner has competed at three rodeos.
However, his schedule right now is a bit more relaxed. “I’ve been home working on the ranch, throwing some steers, going to jackpots, trying to stay in shape,” Brunner said.
The golf course is likely getting a bit of time too, as the cowboy enjoys some rounds when calendar permits.
Physical fitness is key ingredient to rodeo success, the six-foot-two, 230-pound cowboy claimed. “It’s hard to exercise enough when you’re on the circuit traveling all the time,” he said. “I do as much as I can and always watch what I eat. There’s nothing like a good steak.”
From a rodeo family, Brunner’s dad Tracy, mom Yvonne and sister Cat all compete in rodeos. He followed family tradition at a young age and went up through the ranks collecting titles along the trail.
Graduating in a class of 18 from Centre High School, Lost Springs, Brunner competed at the National High School Rodeo Finals in 2010 and 2011.
A 2016 animal science graduate from Kansas State University, Brunner contested at the National College Finals Rodeo in 2014 and 2015.
“I’m excited to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo and intend to be ready as I can mentally and physically,” Brunner said. “You don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself. Just take it a steer at a time, do my best and make the most out of every opportunity.
“It’s a marathon and not a sprint, and I hope to hang in there until the end,” Brunner said.
Not particularly superstitious, Brunner still won’t be putting his hat on the bed, eating any chicken, or wearing yellow shirts during the Finals.
For the 2019 season, Brunner said, “The rodeo limit is 85, so I probably won’t be going to as many. Just want to pick the best ones to win and make it to another National Finals.
“I’ve been fortunate to ride with these great guys and ride Sean Mulligan’s horses. It’s been a real privilege,” Brunner acknowledged.