The Mountaineer's sports Hall of Fame:
Saddle bronc rider Allan McKenzie
The next inductee into The Mountaineer’s unofficial sports hall of fame achieved great success as a novice cowboy, bringing home national titles and the buckles to go along with them.
Saddle bronc rider Allan McKenzie had an exceptional year in 1983. He was the saddle bronc champion at the Youth National Finals Rodeo in Fort Worth, Texas, and the novice champion at the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR). That year, he also won the Alberta High School and National High School rodeos and took home the novice saddle bronc bronze from the Calgary Stampede.
“In ’82, I was riding pretty good and then by ’83, I was riding really good,” McKenzie said.
“To do that, you have to have a lot of luck, but you have to have the ability too. I had a lot of luck that year and my ability was honed to the point where I could do something with that luck.”
Like any sport, finding success in saddle bronc riding takes practice.
McKenzie rode his first bucking horse in 1978 at the Bighorn Stampede west of Caroline, and it would be his first of many.
“It was a really good experience and I was hooked after that. I think maybe if I would’ve got bucked off and slammed right there, it might’ve changed things for me, but it was a really good experience for me and I just couldn’t get enough of it.”
With a dad, uncles and cousins all bronc riding, the decision to ride broncs came naturally to McKenzie. The family had practice horses that he’d ride at home and he’d also head to the Bighorn Stampede grounds to take a turn on some of the 50 horses that were there.
“Every Wednesday we did that and we’d get on between six and 10 head of horses each practice,” he said.
McKenzie also attended bronc riding schools, including those hosted by another local cowboy, Chris Andersen.
After 1983, McKenzie consistently placed in the top 10, but he wouldn’t see another championship title. He continued to qualify for the CFR until 1990.
“I never felt that success again that I had in my last years as an amateur,” he said.
“Winning Calgary was a big honour. I got on some really good horses there and those bigger rodeos always meant a lot to win them. Even some of the smaller rodeos were very memorable for me because the quality of the horse I rode to win the rodeo.”
“If I got on a real rank horse that really tried me and I rode him really good, it was a great honour to be able to ride a horse like that and ride them good. I have certain horses that I have ridden really good, that always – even now that I’m older – flash through my mind quite often.”
“When I go to rodeos and watch these young people compete, and have really good rides, it’s really exciting for me to watch because I know what that feels like.”
McKenzie continued to rodeo until 2001, when he broke his leg. He returned to ride broncs for a short while after his leg healed, but found his perspective had changed.
“To ride bucking horses good, you have to be relaxed and very confident and if you have any doubt in the back of your mind, you’re not going to ride good,” McKenzie explained.
“I always had that doubt in the back of my mind – thinking about my wife and my kids if I got hurt again or worse. I just never applied myself the same after that.”
McKenzie said his time saddle bronc riding taught him a lot.
“I think all the little lessons you learn when you’re rodeoing, you can apply them to your life too. Now those lessons will not be from the championships a person wins, it’s the things you learn along the way and the people you meet.”
In 2017, McKenzie entered a rodeo once more with a friend.
“It’s just one of those things you say you could do, but you’d have to go do it to prove it to yourself that you could still do it. I proved it to myself that I could do it that day,” he said.
“I think I was 54 or 55 and he was 60. Those were our last bucking horses.”
Both of McKenzie’s children went on to rodeo. His son Kale followed in his father’s footsteps, riding broncs before retiring after an injury. His daughter Reba barrel races.
“I’m really proud of them for what they’ve done in the rodeo and around horses and the kind of lifestyle that I had for a while. It’s nice for me that they got to feel what it feels like, but there’s lots to life that’s just as rewarding, or maybe even more rewarding, like family and friends and community.”eally proud of them for the cowboy and the cowgirl that they are – and even more than that, I’m just proud of them as the people that they are.”