OKLAHOMA CITY – By Ted Harbin – Shawn Minor approaches rodeo much like a factory-worker.
“I just want to be a rodeo cowboy,” said Minor, a 21-time International Professional Rodeo Association world champion from Camden, Ohio. “I have a wife and two kids, and I’ve got to provide for them. That means winning at rodeos. If you don’t win, you don’t get paid and don’t make a living.”
He’s done pretty well at it. Since his rookie season, Minor has qualified every year for the International Finals Rodeo. He returns for the 12th time to IFR 45, set for Jan. 16-18 at Jim Norick State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City.
He owns nine all-round gold buckles, eight bareback riding titles and four saddle bronc riding championships. He will roll into Oklahoma City in mid-January No. 1 in all three categories.
“I’ve been playing this game since I was 13, and I’ve learned the ropes,” he said. “I’ve been through the failure and success. I know how to do this deal.”
That has paid off quite well. He has earned nearly $61,000 riding bucking horses in the IPRA.
“A lot of people told me I couldn’t make a living rodeoing, and I set out to prove them wrong,” said Minor, 39, who first qualified for the IFR in his late 20s. “I never set out to win world titles. I just wanted to be known as a good cowboy, in the arena and out.
“My success that I’ve had has just been the topping of the cake. I feel pretty lucky, but I probably work harder at it than most people work in their lifetime. When it comes to riding bucking horses, I would eat it, sleep it, dream about it. I would wake up in the morning, then go out and saddle a colt that I knew bucked. It’s all in how bad you want something.”
He travels North America in order to compete in the sport he loves. He mounts about 200 bucking horses a year. Some years, he has to really work at his job to make it pay off. That was 2014.
“This was not really one of my better years,” he said. “I won a lot, but I won a lot of second- and third-place checks. I didn’t draw the one on them (to win on often). Last year I couldn’t draw a bad one; this year I had to work pretty hard.”
Work is nothing new to Minor, who grew up on a ranch near Gordon, Neb., in the state’s northwest corner, just a stone’s throw from the South Dakota border. He attended a country school that had about half a dozen students in kindergarten-eighth grade. In fact, he started driving himself to school when he was about 8 years old.
“They wired 2-by-4s to the pedals, the clutch, brake and gas,” said Minor, who also rode horses to class. “I broke a lot of ponies and colts to ride going back and forth to school.”
Now nearing 40, he continues to make his presence known in the game he’s played since he was a youngster.
“Being in so many wrecks in my lifetime – as far as bucking horses flipping over or whatever – I’ve just learned to steer clear of a lot of that stuff,” he said. “I think a lot of that is just experience, and I’ve had a lot of it.
“You tend to get pretty savvy to that kind of stuff.”
He also has learned a traditional trait of most cowboys; he can block out pain long enough to make the rides necessary. Of course, there’s no way a man has a chance at his 22nd, 23rd and 24th gold buckles during the 25th anniversary IFR in Oklahoma City.
“It’s all in your head, because rodeo is such a mental game,” Minor said. “If you don’t have a strong mind and a big heart, you’re probably never going to go very far in rodeo.”
Minor has come a long ways in his rodeo career, and it doesn’t look like he’s slowing down any time soon.