Rodeo for me has been a lifelong dream.
Fourteen years since I hit the ground and learned to walk, not one single day have I doubted that I would be a professional bull rider.
It all started in my living room, in front of the big box TV. Most kids my age were watching Cars or Bob the Builder but I was hooked on Lonesome Dove and Young Guns. When I was four. my favourite DVD was 8 Seconds — the story of Lane Frost, world champion bull rider. I rode a million bulls in the living room, pretending to be Lane Frost. Bull riding is all I've ever wanted to do.
I started riding amateur rodeos when I was 10. At the age of 12 I got my CPRA (Canadian Professional Rodeo Association) card and went pedal to the metal. Three years later, I have made huge improvements from those days when I was riding imaginary bulls in the living room. I competed in last year’s CFR (Canadian Finals Rodeo) as season leader going into the finals. I didn’t end up winning the Canadian title, but I believe that if I work at it all this summer I’ll be holding that 2019 Canadian champion buckle.
2018 really changed me as a rider. From the very first rodeo throughout most of the season, my name was at the top of the leader board. When someone jumped ahead of me in the standings it was like they dumped a bucket of kerosene on a fire in my stomach. That competitive fire is the reason why I own the 2018 season leader buckle.
There is no greater feeling than the adrenaline buzz of my sport. Picture this: you’re standing on the back of your chute, looking out at an arena full of rodeo fans who have come from all over to watch. They announce your name, and the adrenaline already pumping in bumps up three notches. It seems as if the entire world has slowed down or stopped. You warm up the rosin (made from pine sap — it sticks to your rope and hand so you don’t lose your grip) and the buzz ratchets up again as you put your hand in the handle. You wipe away a drip of nervous sweat and by the time they get that rope pulled and you wrap it around your hand… you get a feeling of calmness for a split second. Then the gate opens.
Fifteen hundred pounds of wild animal underneath you. It’s trying everything to get you off its back, and you’re trying everything to stay seated in the centre. No time to think while it’s bucking. Things are moving too fast for thinking. It all has to be muscle memory. The bull could spin to the right, the left or even run straight down the pen, but you have an eight-second goal to stay on. And then, Beeeep! The buzzer sounds and you look back and get off the bull and land on your feet. The arena erupts and cheers for you.
Rodeo all around me
Tristen Manning and I went back and forth, leading the last five rodeos of the 2018 season. It pushed both of us to try our hardest and work to win the next rodeo, and then the next one after that. We were like two heavyweights going at it punch for punch. Neither of us were ready to give up. Rodeo is one of the few sports where you can be competitors and friends, because the actual competition is between you and the animal. You can’t change what the guy next to you does. All you can control is your own performance.
I am blessed to have many retired bull riders and bull fighters living around my hometown, Mayerthorpe, Alta. They help me finesse my technique and form. Every winter, I get to ride practice bulls at home and that is the main reason I am succeeding today. The practice bulls are the same ones you’d ride going to any event, but it’s a more controlled environment, a learning experience rather than a competition. Bull riding is a sport where you always have to be improving and tweaking your art. If you actually want to do this for a living, you have to do every little thing you can to get an edge on the animal.
This will be my third year at the Calgary Stampede. It gets better and better every time. It’s a crazy feeling to have 25,000 people screaming and cheering, fighter jets just about breaking the sound barrier, fireworks and all sorts of pyrotechnics going on. It definitely puts a little extra pressure on you, but you have to rub it off and try to pretend you are just getting on a practice bull at home. Once you get the added pressure under control, then you have to deal with that tonne of animal we talked about before. You are hoping to get that big bronze trophy.
The Calgary Stampede is one of the best rodeos in the world. You don’t get to be called “The greatest outdoor event on earth” for nothing. It's the best on both sides of the gate... the top athletes competing and the best fans a rodeo could ask for. But the stampede isn’t just one rodeo, they are always helping develop the next wave. They pay the Junior steer riders, novice bareback and novice broncs’ entry fees at the Stampede and some other rodeos each season. They help the younger generation because they know we are the future.
Want more proof that the Western lifestyle is all mine? I love playing guitar. Took lessons from a great teacher since the age of seven. Music was always around me growing up and it feels natural to sit down, pick a random old song and try to figure it out. I’ve played a few gigs here and there. Started to write some songs. If things work out I ought to be able to record an album one day.
Rodeo is not just an event that comes to your town once or twice a year. It’s a lifestyle for us. Being at home, branding calves and working to do the same at your friend’s place 500km across country, you make friends that last life times, meet family you didn’t know you had, get to travel, see the world, and make a living all the while. Rodeo has been a lifelong dream for me, and it always will be.
(All photos submitted by Dusty Golden)
The Dusty Golden edition
Q: The best book you've ever read?
A: Vietnam Part 1
Q: Must-listen podcast?
A: Joe Rogan/Retrain your mind
Q: Best advice you ever received?
A: Never give up
Q: If your life was a movie, what would it be called?
A: The rough road to success
Q: What word or phrase do you over use?
A: Shoot for first
Q: What is a skill you wish you had?
A: To be good at hockey
Q: What's something no one would guess about you?
A: I was born with club feet and had to wear casts and braces for the first year of my life
Q: What scares you?
A: Stubbing my toe in the dark
Q: If you could have the ultimate influential dinner party, who are the 6 people you'd invite?
A: J.B. Mauney, Jess Lockwood, Chase Outlaw, Connor McGregor, Joe Rogan, and Waylon Jennings
Q: What makes you cry, every time?
A: Old Yeller
Q: What's the next goal you want to accomplish?
A: Be a Canadian champion