A bronc rider must hold on tight for eight seconds in order to complete a ride. When that time is up, the cowboys need a way off the bucking horse. Ryan Hanna of Berthold is one of the two men who help transition those riders safely from bronc to the ground.
When those eight seconds are up, it’s time for the pick-up men’s job to begin.
“If you do your job and everything goes good and no one even thinks about it, but if you get in a situation where you can’t get a horse out of the arena or a bull, then pretty soon the people are talking about the pickup men, and you’d rather they not be doing that,” says Ryan Hanna, Pickup Man.
Hanna watched his father and uncle work as pick-up men back in the 70s and 80s, but he didn’t pick it up until he’d already had a career as a steer wrestler.
“I kind of grew up around it, and then when I was asked to help with this high school rodeo, it was something I kind of wanted to do and my horses worked, and it just kind of snowballed from there,” says Hanna.
This year, the bareback and saddle bronc riders voted the Berthold-native to be one of the pick-up riders for the Badlands Circuit Finals rodeo.
“You do your best to give them their best opportunity to set them on the ground as smoothly as you can,” says Hanna.
His focus is to keep the rodeo moving along while also prioritizing the safety of the competitors.
“It’s all about these riders, it’s not about us or the bucking horses, it’s about them riders, you can’t have a rodeo without the riders and so you do everything you can to keep them feeling good,” says Hanna.
For him, there’s nothing that can replace the feeling of being in the arena.
“When you get into a pen with a really good bucking horse, it’s fun to watch, and I’ve got a front row seat,” Hanna says with a grin.
He adds that, even though it all happens so fast, he tries to check in with the riders and make sure they’re okay and sometimes he even has a chance for small-talk. You can see the pick-up men in action through Sunday at the All Season’s Arena.