Bull riders risk life and limb to compete

Last updated: August 17. 2014 2:42PM - 438 Views
By - jstrickland@civitasmedia.com

Bull riders join in the prayer prior to Saturday's Missouri State Fair Bull Riding Championships at the State Fair Arena.
Bull riders join in the prayer prior to Saturday's Missouri State Fair Bull Riding Championships at the State Fair Arena.
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Safety in sports has been a topic of discussion a lot lately, and football is in the forefront of that conversation and motorsports is also constantly making safety changes. But what about bull riding?

The Missouri State Fair hosted its Bull Riding Championships Friday and Saturday at the State Fair Arena. One of the older riders, 34-year-old Brad Hinson, recalled injuries he’s had in the sport.

“I’ve broken every bone from my third rib up in the shoulder, I broke everything in it,” Hinson said. “The bull came down and stepped on me and split by head open real bad. It put me in a coma for a while.”

He said last week he had 17 stitches put in his knee, but he was back on the bull Friday and Saturday.

“I was at a rodeo one time and watched a guy get killed riding bulls,” he said. “The odd thing is that the bull that killed him is the bull I had to get on in the second round. I was a little nervous. I was 15 or 16-years-old. But it’s the whole thing of a cowboy mentality of you’d rather take the chances of getting on them than have your buddies make fun of you. I know it sounds bad, but it’s the way it is.”

Hinson is from St. Clair, which is about 50 miles southwest of St. Louis. He said he started riding calves when he was 14-years-old, but was in the Army for nearly 12 years and also enrolled in college. He said it didn’t take much to get him back on the bull.

“I got to talking to the guy that’s actually putting this on and he convinced me to start riding again,” Hinson said. “He just pretty much told me I needed to ride again. It didn’t take a whole lot of convincing.”

Hinson didn’t place in the top four Friday or Saturday, and said his bull riding career may be ending soon.

“It might be,” he said. “I don’t know for sure.”

A much younger rider, 20-year-old Mason Lowe, took third Friday and fourth Saturday. He’s from Exeter, a small town of less than 1,000 people in southwest Missouri.

“I started when I was three on calves and worked my way up,” Lowe said.

He worked his way to the Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough Series.

“Which is the highest level bull riding that we can get into,” Lowe said. “It’s kind of a career. It’s my job.”

Lowe said he considers himself lucky as far as injuries are concerned.

“I broke my face right here,” he said while pointing to a scar above his right eyebrow. “Then I broke my leg and ankle. That’s about it.”

Lowe travels from coast to coast and even to Canada making a living bull riding.

“I’ve been to dang near all the states,” Lowe said.

He said he might as well travel and compete while he’s still young and make a living in the sport.

“The month of July I brought in $13,000 and two months before that I brought in $18, 000,” he said. “There’s some weekends you don’t do anything, you fall off and you don’t get anything.”

While preparing for Saturday’s event, Lowe was relaxed and calm. He said he sometimes gets nervous, but his experience keeps him composed while others may vomit.

“I’ve seen people do it,” he said. “But I don’t myself. I’ve seen people who have to do jumping jacks and stuff.”

In the end, riders just have to get up on the bull and wait for the gate to open for their run to start.

“I couldn’t tell you,” Lowe said about what it’s like right before his run starts. “It’s kind of hard to say. You’ve got to be excited and you’ve got to just have fun.”

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