Kade Sonnier Talks Bareback Riding: His Start to His First National Finals Rodeo Qualification as a Rookie

Kade Sonnier’s journey in bareback riding is an unconventional one, however, the Louisiana cowboy has proved that a late start to rodeo’s most physical event was nothing he couldn’t handle.

After his baseball career came to a close, Sonnier found himself returning to college as a rodeo athlete, this time at McNeese State University. When he looks back at his first year of college rode, Sonnier said he was still learning a lot.

“But I had guys like Taylor Broussard, Waylon Bourgeois and Tilden Hooper, I’ve had so much help that I can’t even begin to thank those guys enough for what they’ve done for me and my career,” Sonnier said.

When Hurricane Ida destroyed the house that Sonnier was supposed to live in while attending McNeese State, he moved home before finding a place with Stace Smith. It was there where Sonnier’s two worlds collided as he coached Smith’s boys in baseball while still being able to hone in on his bareback riding skills aboard practice horses at the Smith Ranch.

In June of 2021, Sonnier bought his PRCA Permit and it the road.

“I had to go to every Southeastern Circuit rodeo they had left. It was a grind and we went to all of them and we hit some amateur rodeos along the way. There were some that went good and some that didn’t,” he said.

In September of that same year, Sonnier climbed aboard some National Finals Rodeo horses, one of those rides would become one that he will remember forever.

After picking up his first pro rodeo win in Springhill, Louisiana, Sonnier went to Buffalo, Texas where he drew Pickett Pro Rodeo’s NFR standout, Night Gazer. When she turned out backwards, his reride horse was Top Notch, another Pickett NFR horse.

“At this point, I didn’t really know what Top Notch was, only riding bareback horses for a year and a half. Some guys start telling me what it is and I’m like okay, I don’t really have a choice but to take it because at this point, we’re in Buffalo, Texas at a $3,000 added rodeo and 86 points is placing last hole so I had to take it. I was there for the money. And that’s probably one of my most memorable rides from my career,” he said.

That night in Buffalo, Texas would end with Sonnier making a chart topping ride of 91.5 points and when he looks back, he says that night is when he realized that he was starting to figure it out.

His 2021 season would end with a Circuit Finals win on his permit. Even with that win, Sonnier made the decision to wait another year before getting his pro card.

After a rocky start to 2022, Sonnier qualified for the College Finals and then hit the road with saddle bronc rider and fellow Louisiana cowboy, Shea Fournier.

“We lucked out to get in everywhere together, we were just rodeoing. I changed my spurs and it started to click,” Sonnier said.

After the Fourth of July, he had success at the NFR Open and the summer run ended on a high. In the fall, Sonnier was working on his masters at McNeese State and focusing on the fundamentals of bareback riding.

Sonnier’s rookie season has been unforgettable as he ended his first National Finals Rodeo as the third ranked bareback rider in the World but it is what he has learned about himself as person this year that makes all the difference.

“This year has been more than I could’ve ever dreamed and more than I could have ever imagined. My goal is to win the World and win the Average and we’ll see what God’s plan is for it to line up,” Sonnier said.

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