Down syndrome doesn't slow teen rodeo rider
|Wyatt Bader of Palmer, Neb., is joining his older brother, Regan, in rodeo competitions this year. The boys' mother, Chrissy Bader, says despite Wyatt having Down syndrome there are few things that her older son does that her younger son doesn't|
HASTINGS, Neb. — Brothers Regan and Wyatt Bader of Palmer, Neb., are in just about all of the same extracurricular activities. Both wrestle for Palmer High School and show cattle and hogs in 4-H and FFA. Both participated last week in the four-day Nebraska State High School Rodeo Finals in Hastings.
Wyatt, by the way, has Down syndrome.
“He's always been willing to try anything that anyone else is doing, especially Regan,” their mother, Chrissy Bader, said of Wyatt, 15. “He's got a good attitude and is pretty confident.”
Nearly 150 high school rodeo athletes competed in Hastings in 10 events. The top four competitors in each event earned berths representing Nebraska at the National High School Rodeo Finals in Rock Springs, Wyo., July 15 through 21.
Regan, 17, started participating in rodeo last year, competing in the boys cutting event, where horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate a single animal away from a cattle herd and keep it away for a period of time.
This year, Wyatt followed in his brother's footsteps.
Chrissy Bader said there are few things that her older son does that her younger son doesn't. The only exceptions are football — “although Wyatt is the student manager of the Palmer Tigers” — and competitive shooting sports, although, again, Wyatt likes to go hunting with his father, Kirk Bader, and shot his first deer last year. Wyatt also is on Central City's team for the Special Olympics.
“He hasn't been limited at all. Wyatt really looks up to his big brother,” Chrissy said, adding that his grandfather, Gary Bader, and neighbor Mark Edwards looked for a nice, gentle horse for Wyatt to start out rodeoing.
“It's probably not as agile as the other horses, but Wyatt's been doing good with it,” Chrissy said, adding that the boys practice at home with each other and their cousins, who also compete in cutting.
“My dad helps me, and my Grandpa Gary,” Wyatt said.
Everyone agrees that Wyatt has improved since he began last fall, and “Coach” Mark Edwards said they are even thinking of changing to a quicker, younger horse next year.
“She's a little faster,” Wyatt said.
Chrissy said her kids have always ridden at home, where they have horses for their cow-calf operation and feedlot. Regan also team-roped in the past but decided not to this year.
“I just thought I'd try something different,” Regan said, adding that to be successful at cutting, the cowboy really has to work with his horse.
Wyatt agreed: “I like cutting the best, and I like horses.”
Wyatt also said he enjoyed rodeo because it was giving him more muscles. “I'm getting buff,” he said with a laugh, flexing his arms.
Chrissy said they didn't know Wyatt had Down syndrome when he was born. Although the Baders had some concerns about him, it wasn't until Wyatt was 2 months old that a test confirmed that he had Down syndrome.
“We decided we hadn't treated him any different (from Regan, who is 15 months older) the first two months, why do it after we found out?” Chrissy said, adding the two are “typical brothers.”
That is evident as Regan and Wyatt tease each other about who is better at rodeoing, and have a friendly competition going on.
At Thursday's first go-round at the Nebraska State High School Rodeo Finals, Regan had a score of 138 and came in fourth, while Wyatt scored a 128, beating at least one other competitor.
Regan even admitted that Wyatt has beaten him a time or two.
Chrissy said the “rodeo family” has readily embraced the Baders and has accepted Wyatt as one of them. She has been told that no one knows of any other Nebraska rodeoer who has had Down syndrome.
The family has followed the high school rodeo circuit, attending about 14 rodeos this season. The boys' little sister, Concey, 11, even likes going to the rodeos.
Chrissy said fellow high school cutter Sterling Atkins of Broken Bow, Neb., named Wyatt “most improved cutter” and gave him one of Atkins' buckles.
Regan, who will be a senior this fall, said he would like to study diversified agriculture or agribusiness at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln next year.
Wyatt, a sophomore at Palmer High, said he would like to follow in his brother's footsteps there as well.
“I love ag. Vo-ag is my favorite class,” he said. “I get to study about plants and hay and pigs and cattle.”