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In the Saddle

Bronco rider Solberg suggests bringing a rodeo to Madison, Ind.

Tourism's Thomas says she is looking into the idea



(September 2020) – Bucking Bulls coming to Madison, Ind.?
Madison is the home to many cultural events, including an assortment of music and many forms of the arts. And now something totally different may be on the horizon – bucking broncos and sideways jumping bulls.
Tawana Thomas, executive director of VisitMadison Inc., said she would welcome something totally new in Madison – like a rodeo. Thomas lights up when she talks about the event she helped shepherd at her previous position in central Texas.
“My job was to supplement the rodeo with other events such as high grade music groups. I think a rodeo would work here in Madison and surround it with other activities. Right now, it’s a ‘pie in the sky idea,’ but I think it could work if we could get some other people excited about it.”

Photo provided

Tayler and Mike Solberg travel the pro rodeo circuit.


A rodeo really got churning in Thomas’ head when she met Ellie Troutman and her daughter, Tayler Solberg, when they were being recruited last year to bring their toy store, McWhiggins Wonder Emporium, to Madison. She quickly learned that Solberg and her husband, Mike, know a lot about horses and the rodeo business.
Mike Solberg is a native of Sunnynook Alberta, Canada, a place that Solberg describes “as far out in the sticks as you can get.” He grew up on a 4,500-acre ranch that has been in his family for more than 100 years and that he now owns.
“I started riding in rodeos when I was about 15 and now have been doing it for over 20 years,” Mike Solberg said.  He started out doing everything from calf roping, to riding bulls and broncos. His bull riding days ended after an injury, and now he specializes on riding the broncos.
Solberg has had numerous injuries over his long career. Last year he lost months of riding when he broke his back. He knows that he is involved in a young man’s sport and believes that he is now the second oldest bronco rider on the circuit.
To reduce injuries, Solberg is constantly working on his body. During the offseason and when staying in his part-time home in La Grange, Ky., he works out every day with a personal trainer and watches what he eats.

Photo provided

Mike Solberg of La Grange, Ky., holds on as he rides a bucking bronco at a recent professional rodeo event.


Not only is the bronco riding strenuous, but so is getting to the next event. The Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association sponsors events all around the country and Canada, and it gives its members a chance to be very busy. Solberg says that he averages riding in a rodeo five to seven days a week, and most always in a different town.
“You have to prepare yourself mentally for each ride or you won’t be successful,” says Solberg. “We find out what horses we draw for an event and then we spend time looking at the horses’ bucking tendencies. It’s a little easier now a days because most of the cowboys post videos of their rides and the rest of us spend a lot of time studying them.”
The actual time in competition is one of the shortest in sports, hopefully eight seconds, or if unsuccessful, fewer. The first thing the rider does once he is on the horse in the chute is to get his hand under the rope that goes around the horse. When he gets his hand just the way he likes it and his body balanced for the ride, he signals for the gate to open. The horse is trained to explode out into the arena and start bucking. According to the rules, the cowboy needs to make sure his feet are above the horse’s shoulders when it rockets out of the gate.
The riders make money with each successful ride, and that money is added up during the season to see who goes to the Nationals. That is why these men work so hard and risk injury because going to the Nationals means everything, except maybe this year.
“Because of the virus, we don’t know if or where the Nationals will be,” Solberg said. “The last few years they have been in Las Vegas. We’re just going to have to wait and see if they’re even open. The virus has cut down on the number of events, but recently we have seen an increase in attendance.”
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, is Solberg’s wife, Tayler, except most of the time she is either in La Grange or in Madison. Tayler grew up around horses under the tutelage of her mother, Ellie Troutman, a noted horsewoman.

Photo provided

Mike Solberg (riding) says scenes like these could be held in Madison, Ind., as a new tourism draw.


As a young girl, Tayler showed Arabian horses and fell in love with the horse business. She met Mike online, and they were married in 2017 and now have two children. When not trying to track down Mike as he rides on the circuit or visiting their ranch in Alberta, Tayler stays busy helping her mother run the toy store, which is located at 220 W. Main Street. They opened the store a year ago, moving it from its original location in La Grange.
McWhiggins Wonder Emporium is a good description of this establishment. This is a great place for three generations of family to roam around. For the grandparents, memories of long ago come rushing back as you see the toys that used to give you such enjoyment. The parents get excited about the vintage Star Wars items, and yes there is a myriad of new things for the younger generation.
Both Solbergs say they are excited about the thought of bringing a rodeo to Madison. “We think it would be another great event for this town.”

• If you would like to express your support for a rodeo, you can email Tawana@visitmadison.org.  If you want to see pictures and keep up with Mike, you can go to his Facebook page: Mike Solberg professional bareback rider.

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