Keeping the rodeo way of life alive and well for generations to come is the desire of Clovis resident Dr. Allen Clyde, who says he can’t imagine not being involved with young rodeo athletes and horses.
In 2010, Clyde and his wife, Deb, saw a need in the Rodeo community for more bronc riders. The couple founded Bronc Riders of California to provide high school and college students with a safe environment to experience and practice the sport.
Bronc riding is a sport that was on the decline only a few years ago. In California, there was no place for those interested in the sport to practice. This lead to the only experience for these young athletes being the rodeos they attended, which came with a set of problems all its own.
Like many rodeo events, bronc riding can be dangerous, and Allen Clyde wanted to minimize that risk as much as possible.
“We focus on safety,” Clyde said. “We teach the kids how to ride correctly so they don’t get hurt.”
Clyde’s facility provides year-round, free training to the students who wish to participate in the sport. There are currently 35 horses in the program, housed in a 1400-acre field in the foothills. The animals are feral, bred to buck, and only ever used for the sport.
Those who participate in the sport range from high school freshmen to college seniors. The practices are mixed, with the college students mentoring the high school students. In this way, Clyde emphasizes the idea of the athletes helping each other.
“These kids will go out of their way to help a competitor,” Clyde said of his athletes. “They’re hat-in-hand, yes sir, yes ma’am, respectful kids.”
Clyde does more than teach his athletes to ride broncs, however. He also makes sure they stay on track and do well in school. His students have a 3.4 collective GPA at Fresno State, and those who are in his program have a 100 percent graduation rate in five years or less. They also have a 100 percent placement rate in their fields.
“Our program is the only one like it in the country,” Clyde said.
Reed Neely is one of the athletes in Clyde’s program. He is a junior at Clovis East High School and credits joining the program to his family and experiences in his youth with professional bronc riders. He started riding broncs with Clyde in October and says that he has enjoyed the program.
Neely plans to go on to college and continue in rodeo. He is majoring in engineering and has not yet decided what he will specialize into.
Cameron Messier is a senior at South Southern Charter High School in El Dorado Hills. For Messier, rodeo is a multi-generational sport. When he was a freshman, Messier met Clyde and has been working with him ever since.
“Allen and Deb are great,” Messier said. “I’ve learned a lot.”
The program has done a lot for Messier, who is competing at a professional level. Like Neely, Messier plans to continue to rodeo in college and work with Clyde throughout.
For athletes like Neely and Messier, Clyde’s program provides scholarships to Fresno State. The non-profit puts 100 percent of whatever it receives in donations towards the scholarship fund for its athletes. The horses, time and facilities are all donated to the program.
“Even the horses work for free,” Clyde laughed. “We don’t keep any of their winnings, we put them all back into the scholarships to help these kids through school.”
Clyde is proud of his program and the athletes that are involved in it, and he does not plan on stopping anytime soon.
“This program would die without us,” Clyde said. “So we’re not going to stop.”