WHITEFISH - Rodeo is the favorite sport of many Montanans, but it's much more than a sport to 16-year-old Korbin Baldwin.
Baldwin has opened his own bull riding arena in Whitefish and started his own business — Baldwin Bucking Bulls.
"I have been thinking about this for years," Baldwin said. "I started mutton busting when I was real little and I've just seen all these guys who had arenas at their house, and they have a lot more opportunity to get better and become world champions because they can practice whatever the heck they want.
"So that's kind of the goal here, and also just to help other people get better and put on practice pens for youth and tons of people."
As for Baldwin's mom Leslie, she has nothing but support for her son chasing his dream.
"Most men can only dream of this and don't even get the chance by the time they're 50, so he has busted his butt and started to make some magic happen," Leslie Kanga Baldwin said. "And it's pretty amazing to watch this kid grow every day."
When it comes to watching her son ride, which she’s been doing ever since he started mutton busting at four years old, Leslie Baldwin manages the balancing act of being both a mom and a fan.
"Oh absolutely. A balance of both," she said. "I think just watching him up and coming, you just kind of sit back and you’re like, ‘Whoa, that's my kid. He's doing pretty amazing.’"
Going forward, Korbin Baldwin's business plans simply revolve around sharing his love for rodeo.
"My end goal is just to get people back into it, because this is kind of a dying sport, rodeo is, " he said. "And I love just seeing young kids come get on steers and make their way up to the levels and get on bigger and bigger bulls.
"That's kind of my end goal, just seeing lots of youth riding bulls and getting it out to the world more."
Baldwin's coach from the Kalispell Rodeo Club, Ryan Ehmann, has only known him since February, but sees nothing stopping him from achieving his goals.
"Oh my gosh, I mean this kid, when he puts his mind to something get out of the way okay," said Ehmann. "And he's not going to take no for an answer, and he's just going to make it happen."
Another coach Baldwin has connected with from the Northwest Montana Rodeo team shared Ehmann’s sentiment.
"I think the sky's the limit. He's a really level-headed young man. He's really committed, he's a hard worker," said Ted Valentiner. "I see very few young people with his vision, a vision and a commitment at that young age. And so it's inspiring to all of us and we want to help him get there."
Valentiner has been around rodeo since he was 11 years old and is now a member of the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame. Now, his passion lies in the preservation of Western culture and the icon of the American cowboy.
"I want to be part of promoting the positive aspects of that icon by working with these young people and have them understand what the heritage is that they're moving forward with," said Valentiner. "The legacy of the cowboy is something that should never go away, and these young people are the ones that are going to carry it forward."
As for how Baldwin plans to carry it forward, he sees not just using his new arena as a training spot for the next generation, but somewhere all people can see and experience the behind the scenes of all that goes into bull riding.
"They can see us load a couple bulls and maybe put on little private rodeos for them. They can watch us load bulls and then buck a few and maybe they sit on one in the chute, stuff like that," Baldwin said.
"Just get them used to the bull riding community and kind of just show them what it's all about. And hopefully, people can come out and we can do private rodeos, that'd be awesome."
Ehmann, who’s been in the rodeo world for over 30 years, sees all the potential Baldwin's business has and knows he’s taking all the right steps to set himself up for success.
"For them people to see these young kids that are doing this and they're passionate, and they're excited about this. I mean, I just really see the big picture a year from now is that we have rodeo days for the fans only because that is the big picture," said Ehmann.
"The rodeo thing and you riding yourself, it's such a small window, you don't know when that's going to end. Giving people that experience, that's a lifetime."
Since receiving a business loan in August, Baldwin has purchased 10 bulls along with the arena equipment needed, and instead of simply delivering it, the company he bought it from brought down a team to do its first installation for a customer.
"We are so blessed that 2W Livestock Equipment actually took time to have their employees show up and help set up the arena," said Leslie Baldwin. "And when I asked them why they were doing this, he said, ‘Who wouldn't stand behind a 16-year-old, we're so impressed with him and every conversation we've had with him. We know we need to stand behind him.’"
While still taking care of the finishing touches, Korbin Baldwin plans to be fully operational come next April and bring in all ages interested in exploring the world of rodeo.