Historic Deadwood, South Dakota was the backdrop for ‘Back When They Bucked’ over Memorial Day. The action-packed, four-event rodeo featured breakaway roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, and bareback riding. Roughstock contestants battled an all-day rainstorm during the short round, but when all was said and done, Donny Proffit of Kemmerer, Wyoming emerged the co-champion of the bareback riding.
Just 21 years old, the University of Wyoming student-athlete is proving that he can compete at an elite level. He is rubbing elbows with some of his heroes, like Kaycee Feild, but says that during his first year of pro rodeo, the veteran bareback riders were more than welcoming.
“The bareback riding is a pretty small community. The guys treat everyone so good.” said Proffit, “If you have a good attitude, they’re more than willing to befriend you. The coolest thing about pro rodeoing is the camaraderie behind the bucking chutes.”
Proffit took a unique route to his professional bareback riding career. During his first semester of college, he competed in all three roughstock events as well as wrestling for UW. However, he decided to hone in on his strength, which was bareback riding. “I started doing a lot better in it than the rest. Bull riding was starting to get me hurt. I loved bull riding, but I was having to win the bareback riding to pay for my bull riding habit,” he says. He won four state wrestling championships for his hometown of Kemmerer as a high schooler. His two brothers and father have three state titles between them, as well.
The mentality of competitive wrestling translates to that of bareback riding, says Proffit. “Bareback riding, no matter how pretty it looks, still tends to hurt […] I never was the fastest or most talented, but I was physical. I didn’t do anything illegal, but when I did it, I did it hard. It worked out pretty good there. I just carried that attitude and mentality over. It gave me a step up from kids that didn’t have that experience,” he says.
Wrestling was taught by Proffit’s father, Clint, and so was bareback riding. His father teaches him many lessons so that Proffit does not have to learn “the hard way,” he says.
“His biggest thing is that try will get you a long way. If you try your hardest every time you nod your head, good things tend to happen. Wrestling was the same way,” said Proffit.
Ranching is also important to the Proffit family. “Between rodeos, I help mom and dad on the place. I actually had to ride a couple colts this morning before I could go rodeo,” he says. Proffit dreams of taking over the family ranch but also wants to rodeo as long as he can.
His win at Back When They Bucked on May 30 should certainly kickstart his summer, as he and Tanner Aus both earned a check for just under $2,000 for a day’s worth of work in the mud. Black Mamba was his short round horse from Muddy Creek Pro Rodeo, and he did not mind the weather. “A lot of those horses didn’t take to the mud well. Mine must’ve liked the mud, I guess,” he said.
Proffit’s gritty attitude reaped rewards in less-than-ideal conditions.
“After the first one, you were already soaking wet. You might as well get on your next one and make the most of it. If you’re going to be wet and miserable, you might as well win something,” he said.
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