Zach Burden isn’t easily discouraged when it comes to riding bulls, even when all he goes home with are bumps, bruises and breaks.
When asked about getting hurt, Burden says, “Oh, you know, knocked out a couple of times, a couple of broken ribs.”
A broken ankle unrelated to bull riding limited him to only a half-dozen bull rides in 2014. At a practice session a few weeks ago at the Sumner, Neb., rodeo grounds, he had tooth damage from getting his head stomped, requiring a trip to the dentist.
He rode his first bull in about fourth grade on the day before the annual July 3-4 Sumner Rodeo.
“We wanted to ride, so some guys let Kurt (his older brother) and I on some bulls. Kurt rode before me and did a front flip, got stepped on and broke his jaw,” Burden says, adding that he took his turn anyway.
“I was just like any other kid. I wanted to do it and as hard-headed as I am, I can’t quit what I want to do,” Burden says.
His parents, Kirby and Chrystal, limited his riding until he turned 18. He began going to more area rodeos in summer 2011 following his graduation from Sumner-Eddyville-Miller High School.
Winning a buckle and some money, combined with the sport’s adrenaline rush made him want to ride even more.
“It’s the fact that you know you can cover that bull. You have done it,” Burden says.
Rodeo fans can identify Burden by a large pink cross on the back of his protective vest. He was trying to make the pink breast cancer ribbon, but it wasn’t turning out well, so he made the cross instead.
“That’s kind of been my trademark for a long time,” he says.
Burden’s real job now is Burden Horseshoeing, which he started 2 years ago. It’s a full-time business now, with clients scattered across Nebraska.
“I go wherever they need me, I guess,” he says. “Word of mouth is my best friend.”
Burden had thought about becoming a farrier while in high school because he grew up with horses. His parents have Lazy KZ Paint Horses.
Together, Burden and his fiancée Rachel Davis have eight horses. “We ride Quarter Horses for rodeo,” says David, who competes in barrel racing.
When Burden was in high school, football was his main interest.
“My thought was I might want to play college football, but I could never figure out what I wanted to do at a 4-year college,” he says.
Another farrier convinced him there was plenty of demand for another horseshoeing business in the region.
Burden learned the trade during 2 months at the Oklahoma Horseshoeing School in Purcell, Okla.
“The first day, you put on shoes, and the only day off you got was Sunday,” he says.
He enjoys his profession, even though the travel and long hours are tough.
“I’m my own boss. I’m on my own schedule. You can make a lot of money if you want to put in the time,” Burden says on a recent Friday when he was at home southwest of Sumner to shoe his roping horse for competition at the Overton Rodeo that night.
“We try to go 6 to 8 weeks on everything (every client horse), shoes and trims, ... I can usually shoe a horse in an hour and trim up in 15 minutes,” he says.
When asked about where he’d like his business to be in five years, Burden says he originally thought it might take that long to be a full-time farrier, but it “just kind of happened” by this summer.