By Pete Pichaske
When they announced the winner in tie-down roping at the American Quarter Horse Youth Association World Championship in Oklahoma City last August, some rodeo folks surely were scratching their heads.
Spencer Bramble, of Maryland?
Any confusion is understandable. Maryland has produced its share of exceptional football and basketball players, lacrosse players and gymnasts. But it’s never been known as a hotbed for cowboys.
And nobody knows that better than the roping champion himself, Spencer Bramble, an unassuming senior at Queen Anne’s County High School, and those who know him best.
“He is a rare breed in this part of the country,” says his father, David Bramble. “Everything else around here is football, baseball, soccer. … He’s accomplished a lot from being where we’re located.”
“People out here are not used to one of them Yankee boys winning,” says Gary Wells, a professional horseman who lives in Oklahoma and has trained Spencer for four or five years. Spencer’s championship, he adds, “surprised some of them, I imagine. But it didn’t surprise me.”
Says Spencer himself: “I must have been an odd duck when I was little, I guess. I don’t know what it is. … I’m the only one that rodeos in Queen Anne’s.”
That’s not to say Spencer hasn’t worked hard to get where he is. If practice makes perfect, he deserves to be the rodeo champion he is.
The only child of David and Clara Bramble, Spencer grew up and still lives on the 330-acre Quail Covey Farm on Starr Road, which has been in his father’s family since 1941.
While neither of his parents ropes or rodeos, both have owned and shown horses. Spencer himself started showing horses when he was barely able to walk. By age 3 or 4 he was riding, and a decade later he took the leap to roping.
“I had a trainer up in Pennsylvania and his two boys rodeoed and roped,” Spencer recalls. “I’d go up there and I’d be riding horses with them, and after my lessons got done, they’d set up the arena and we’d stay and watch. I was kind of just standing there one day, and I was like, ‘That’s pretty neat.’ So they started teaching me.”
And the rest, as they say, is history.
No horsing around for Bramble
While other boys his age were tossing footballs or baseballs, Spencer was in his barn roping his roping dummy, essentially a headless, legless wooden calf used to practice roping. Hour after hour.
“I used to have to call him from the back door to tell him to come in and go to bed,” Clara Bramble recalls. “When he was little, he’d be waiting for the school bus to come, he’d have the dummy out in the driveway, and he’d be roping the dummy while waiting. … He took his rope to school once or twice.”
“They told me I couldn’t bring it back after I started to rope other kids,” Spencer says.
These days, Spencer sticks to roping his dummy and live calves, but he’s no less obsessed. He practices three or four times a week, when the weather allows, for two or three hours at a time.
“He’s a little bit anal,” his mother says. “He’s a perfectionist.”
Besides his roping dummy, he has a dummy calf, a chunk of wood with movable sticks for legs that he uses to practice hog tying. Watching him practice, his hands become a blur; even the casual observer is impressed.
Spencer, his horses and his parents travel to a dozen or more competitions and rodeo events a year. Now that he’s older, Spencer sometimes takes the trips on his own, but often, his parents go with him. Last summer, for example, they all went to Oklahoma for the quarter horse championships.
“It’s sort of our family hobby,” Clara says of the family’s travels. “He’ll do things, and that’s our family vacation.”
Wells, who has ridden and trained horses and ropers for decades, says Spencer’s success is a result of his dedication and hard work. “Not many work at it like he does,” he says. “He’s still got a ways to go before he could be a top pro, but as far as the youths, he’s really good.”