Fresno State Saddle Bronc champion Uhuru Adem has lofty goals – he wants to be ranked among the top five riders in the nation.
There was a moment during the season when the very opportunity seemed to be stripped away.
Adem’s gear – his custom saddle, his rigging bag – was stolen along with a friend’s truck five days before the Fresno State Intercollegiate Rodeo.
Adem was without $3,000 worth of equipment. He had a competition to prepare for. The Rodeo West Coast Region Championships were a month away. His performance there would determine if he’d get a crack at the top five – at placing in the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo.
It was a sudden blow.
It didn’t stop Adem, who was crowned Champion Saddle Bronc rider for the Western region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association a month after losing the valuable possessions he needed to compete.
“It really put a damper on stuff for a while, but I just had some goals and I knew I could achieve,” Adem said. “It slowed me down a little bit, but I didn’t think about it much. I just tried to keep going on with it.”
And Adem made it clear: he just wanted his gear back.
“He did a very classy job,” said Art Parham, Fresno State Animal Science Department chair and team coach.
“When it became known that he was without a saddle, he didn’t go out and seek financial help or other help. … He just kind of tried to stay above it and not let the adversity drive him,”
The Clovis Police Department was not able to find his saddle, but they did find his boots.
Adem said he “went back and forth from three different saddles these past couple of months,” including one he used from when he was younger.
He finally found a suitable saddle to ride heading into a rodeo competition in Coalinga. His friend lent it to him, and it will be the saddle he will use to compete in the natonal finals.
Adem has also battled through knee injury he sustained during the Tuesday practice heading into the Western regional finals.
“I’m going to have to use a lot of tape (for the national finals), and it might hurt a bit,” Adem said.
Adem will take a jab at placing in the top five in the nation when he competes in the June 10-17 national finals as Fresno State’s sole representative.
“Uhuru is pretty driven,” Parham said.
“There’s not a bronc-riding clinic on every street corner. You have to kind of seek them out and be willing to get on them and get better. And he’s done that.”
There have been obstacles that Adem has had to overcome – like the saddle.
There are obstacles Adem still has to fight with – like his knee.
He’s not preoccupied about any of it.
“It is a big deal, but all of those guys up there are trying to win, so I can’t think about my knee or my saddle,” Adem said.
“I’m just in it to go out there and try to win, as well.”