Justin Ward rides saddle broncs at the Medford, Wis., high school rodeo.
Justin Ward rides saddle broncs at the Medford, Wis., high school rodeo.
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When asked about his future goals in the sport of rodeo, Mabel-Canton senior Justin Ward replied, "Hopefully qualify for national finals rodeo...the national 'super bowl' of rodeo (in Las Vegas)."

His younger brother, Cody Ward, a sophomore, said he has the same goal.

"It is very unique - you do not see a lot of people do it, it takes a lot of skill and horsemanship," said Justin about being involved in the sport.

"It's thrilling," echoed Cody.

The brothers are first generation rodeo enthusiasts. They live on a generational farm where their father, Doug Ward, was raised. While they had horses on the farm since they were children, they are the first to take it to the next level.

"We started it together," said Justin. "We started trail riding with our neighbor...and then we went on a trail ride and there was this guy who said, 'hey, check it (rodeo) out.' We started low and slowly picked up on it."

Justin was 10 years old at the time and Cody was 8.

What started as a hobby has turned into a passion that has united the two brothers. In the 2012-2013 season, Justin was champion steer wrestler and took sixth place in team roping in the Wisconsin High School Rodeo finals. Cody took seventh place in team roping in the finals.

Justin placed 26th in the nation at the National High School Rodeo finals in Rock Springs, Wyo. Justin also ended up fourth in Steer Wrestling for the 2012-2013 year in Wisconsin Little Britches finals.

For the current 2013-2014 season, Justin is in first place in steer wrestling, first in calf roping, second in team roping, second in saddle broncs and third in cutting.

Cody is currently in sixth place in team roping for high school rodeo in Wisconsin and won third place header for team roping in Wisconsin Little Britches.

Four high school rodeos have been held so far in the current season, which is already half over. The other half of the season starts next May.

Justin said there is fair amount of travel involved in the hobby. "Most of them (rodeos) are in Wisconsin, they have one in Iowa, and then we do a different series throughout Minnesota," he explained.

Justin traveled this past year to Wyoming to the national high school rodeo finals and both brothers traveled to New Mexico for junior high finals.

The brothers spoke about the special bond that develops between the rider and the horse in the sport.

"You can go jump on any horse and go ride it - but I personally wouldn't trade my horse for any other one because I just know that one better than anyone else," Justin said about his horse, Sprat.

Cody has been riding his horse, Reno, for four years.

"You could start just with your own (horse)...it is a good start," said Justin about how they started in the sport.

The boys then purchased more experienced horses that, they said, essentially trained them.

"We just kept going from there and then we eventually trained our own. Just like the speed of the game, (they) started going faster and faster," Justin added.

Along with the rodeo hobby, both brothers are focused on their schooling and are looking forward to playing basketball for Mabel-Canton, starting in just a few weeks.

Justin has also enlisted in the National Guard and spends many of his weekends at training.

Both Justin and Cody plan to continue rodeo beyond their high school years and into post-secondary education.

"They give out full scholarships (for rodeo) just like football and basketball," Justin added.

"They have worked very hard," said Traci Ward, Justin and Cody's mother. "It is definitely a family organization...we pretty much live in our trailer full-time in the summer because we are gone every Thursday through Sunday. We are there to support them...it really has been fun to watch them grow (in the sport)."

Traci said her husband, Doug Ward, has become involved by announcing for many of the rodeos.