Story by Susan Kanode (NFR Insider)
In rodeo, announcers talk about stock contractor’s “Born to Buck” breeding programs at nearly every performance but the breeding is just the beginning of making a successful bucking horse.
The selection of sires and deciding just how that breeding program works has developed a lot of top bucking stock in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). With bulls and horses, getting a live, healthy baby is a small part of the task of developing the talent that goes on to have a career as a rodeo star.
Horses in particular, have a vast amount of time and energy devoted to them before they ever see a bucking chute. They are often four to five years old before a stock contractor knows whether their financial and emotional investment has paid off.
It takes exceptional dedication and love of the sport to keep these breeding programs going. LaTasha Wieferich is one of those individuals who loves bucking horses and has been part of a family that has been raising them for four generations.
LaTasha is the great-granddaughter of Marvin Brookman, who started Brookman Rodeo company in the 1950s. Marvin was working with his father on the CBC Ranch. There were some mares that didn’t want to be ridden. Those mares are the foundation of Brookman Rodeo’s current breeding program. Marvin joined the Cowboys Turtle Association, the precursor of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in 1936.
Marvin was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2005, just six months before he passed away at the age of 92. Brookman Rodeo has had livestock selected for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) every year that it has been held. They missed having stock there one year because of a trucking accident.
At just 20 years old, LaTasha has an undeniable understanding of equine athletes. Along with that knowledge, she has the passion and devotion to give each one of their horses the opportunity to be the best. That is part of a team effort at Brookman Rodeo. Her parents, Dave and Cathy Wieferich, manage the day-to-day operations of the rodeo company. They have three children, daughters LaTasha and Tesa and son Tate. Marvin’s knowledge was passed down to Cathy and then to Dave when they got married. LaTasha was nine years old when her grandfather passed, but he made a big impact on the little girl that is shaping her future.
“I can still hear him saying ‘Tash, I can just tell you love this,’ to me.” LaTasha said. “He told me stories and I still hear stories about him. He was probably the greatest horseman I ever got to talk to. He was really good at reading them.”
Reading those horses at the ranch and learning their characteristics is as important to their success as the bloodlines behind the horses. It starts when they are youngsters and get to make trips to the rodeos with their moms. They don’t all get to go, but the ones that do are ready to travel and understand their jobs at an earlier age.
All the babies learn important lessons from the mothers, and like them they have free-choice hay and get grain every morning. That feeding program continues after they are weaned. Every fall, they brand the colts with the distinctive XA Brand that has been part of the program from the beginning. After they are branded and males are gelded, they get turned out under Montana’s big skies and get to be horses.
They get moved from pasture to pasture to utilize the grass and continue to get grain. Horselic tubs, formulated specifically for equine athletes, are available to every horse. Each person involved with the rodeo company has their own responsibilities and nurturing the young horses has become LaTasha’s. She is also a college student at Sheridan (Wyoming) College where she is studying to become a dental hygienist and competes in college rodeos. She qualified for last year’s College National Finals Rodeo as a freshman in the barrel racing.
Weekends when she is not competing finds her making the four-hour trip back to the ranch near Sidney, Mont., where she can help where needed and check on the horses. Everyone involved watches them grow with hopeful anticipation that they might be the next great bucker.
“The biggest accomplishment we have is to raise a good one,” LaTasha said. “It gives you chills and is way more important than the money.”
When those young horses turn four or five, their opportunity to have a future in the rodeo arena begins. They are brought in from the pasture and evaluate them physically and watch to see how they are acting mentally. If a horse is fractious or extremely nervous, it might get turned out for another year giving it time to mature and get used to being handled.
Horses also might get turned out for another year if they show a lot of promise. Their bucking career starts at the ranch or an amateur rodeo. Every step is done with careful consideration.
“We are really careful with all of the young horses,” LaTasha said. “We don’t want them to get sour. We want them to love their jobs as much as we love ours. And we don’t take any chances on any of them getting injured.”
Depending on each individual horse, they won’t be ready for PRCA action until they are seven or eight years old. There next test is one known in the company as the “Texas Sweat,” where they go south for rodeos in the winter and see how they acclimate to different climates. LaTasha, along with the rest of the family keeps a careful eye on them through it all.
“I have a big love for bucking horses,” she said. “They are like my kids. I’m always trying to learn more about them and look for ways to improve our program. I have learned that there is no right or wrong and that what works for one horse might not work for another.”
It all adds up to a huge investment and one of the biggest gambles in rodeo. They estimate that they have a minimum of $5,000 in feed before a horse is ever tried. There are also medications and other costs incurred.
For Brookman Rodeo, the investment is worth it. Their program is working. They have been raising horses that are successful at all levels of rodeo. Last year, they had two horses in the saddle bronc riding at the NFR, Kid Rock and Drinkin’ Again.
Just this past July, world champion bareback rider Tim O’Connell, had the highest marked ride at Cheyenne Frontier Days on a Brookman horse, Continental Drift. That was in the rodeo’s finals and earned Tim the championship. Dave, Cathy, LaTasha and Tesa were all on hand to watch the fruits of their labor.
This year, the Wieferich family picked 50 of their best mares for their breeding program. Two of those mares made their way to the Caldwell (Idaho) Night Rodeo with their babies. Their sire, Smokey Lonesome came too. One of those babies is already developing a reputation.
Over the Fourth of July at the Red Lodge (Montana) Rodeo, horses were penned where the crowd could get to them. While people were looking at the babies, one of those colts took a liking to the rodeo fans. Now, he can’t seem to get enough love from his fans. One of his biggest is the daughter of a former NFR qualifier Heath Ford. So, in honor of that little girl, he is the first of the 2017 foal crop to get a name – Pecos.
Raising bucking horses is not for the faint of heart who want a quick return on an investment. It takes patience, patience and more patience. While the wait to see what they become could be agonizing, for LaTasha and her family, it’s filled with joy of watching these majestic creatures grow up and hopeful anticipation for their futures.