The cowboy is an American icon, a legendary figure woven into the history and culture of South Dakota. If you’re looking to find one, Bob Lantis looks and sounds the part. To be clear, this isn’t an act, and Bob isn’t playing a role — the man is a cowboy. A former bronc rider, nowadays he spends his time outfitting trips with his 15 pack horses, loading hay in the barn for winter and helping to herd bison at the Annual Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup.
At 86 years old, Bob’s been at this awhile. He’s no stranger to the challenges that come with his lifestyle. But last year, pain in his low back made things much harder. “When I would get on a horse it was a struggle. I could barely pull myself into the damn saddle, and it just got to the point where I was so mad at myself,” he says.
Before he started experiencing the pain, Bob could mount and dismount his horse without a problem, as well as load his pack horses for trips. “I was lifting 70 pound panniers up and hooking them on the horse, and doing it by myself,” he explains. “Then I had to cut it down to 50 pounds. Then 40, and I was having a hell of a time.”
Struggling to get into the saddle, and with his strength to load pack horses dwindling, this cowboy knew he had to do something in order to keep doing the things he loves. That’s when he decided to give Monument Health Sports Performance Institute a try, with a little encouragement from his loved ones. “I gave it a shot because of my daughters and my wife,” Bob says with a slight chuckle. “I tell you, I had been moaning and groaning around here since the Fourth of July last year, and they knew I’d tried everything else. I’ve had shots, I’ve had physical therapy and none of it worked for any length of time.”
For nearly 50 years, Bob Lantis has herded bison in the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup. Every year, cowboys and cowgirls round up over 1,300 bison, or buffalo, as part of the park’s management plan for maintaining balance between the number of animals and the amount of grassland available to forage. The Buffalo Roundup provides an opportunity to sort out excess animals to be sold at auction, vaccinate new herd members and check for pregnancies. It’s also one of Bob’s favorite times of year.
“It’s an adrenaline-kicking son-of-a-gun to be chasing those buffalo, I’ll tell you,” he explains. “It’s amazing the whole roundup takes about an hour and a half, but you anticipate for a whole year. It’s like Christmas morning.”
At first glance, Monument Health Sports Performance Institute Powered by EXOS may not seem like the kind of place where you’d expect to find a cowboy. With the main room ringed with colorful weights, specialized exercise equipment and medicine balls, and treadmills overlooking the room through plate glass windows, you could imagine professional athletes and Olympians training here.
While that perception isn’t wrong, there’s a lot more to it. “SPI is a place where experienced, competitive athletes can come to improve and be their best,” says Scott Guidotti, General Manager of Monument Health Sports Performance Institute. “But we don’t just cater to professional athletes. We feel that performance is defined by the individual, and our goal is to help everyone who walks through the door meet those performance goals, whatever they might be.”
Kyle Taylor, a Performance Enhancement Coach, works with Bob to address the source of his problem. “He had some nagging pain in his lower back and in his hips, that was affecting the quality of his life,” says Kyle. “We see that kind of problem from time to time, but in Bob’s case, it was more of a limiting factor in his lifestyle.”
Working together, Kyle and Bob started with exercises to stretch the lower back, hips and glutes to release tension and relieve some of the pain. Then they moved on to strengthening exercises to prevent it from coming back.
Like a lot of athletes who train at SPI, Bob has a specific metric he uses to measure success, and it’s pretty unique. “I have a strange way of judging whether I’m gaining or not — how I get on a horse! And when I first went in there I could barely pull myself up on the damn horse!” he exclaims. “Then as I worked with Kyle, I started to notice I was getting better and better and better. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the real deal.”
Since he started training with Kyle in March 2021, Bob has seen continuous improvement — that means a reduction in pain, increased strength and, of course, greater ease getting into the saddle. “One of the biggest factors was Bob’s consistency,” adds Kyle. “He came here with intent and purpose, and showed up every day ready to train. I think that’s one of the biggest reasons we had success as quickly as we did.”
After dealing with the discomfort for so long, Bob is grateful to be able to continue doing what he loves without pain. “I can get on a horse now, with relative ease,” he explains, pausing before continuing with a laugh. “Not like I could years ago, but a hell of a lot better than I could when I first came in there."
Monument Health’s Sports Performance Institute Powered by EXOS leverages proven methodology with award-winning facilities to revolutionize your life and transform how you perform, look and feel each day.