Bull riders bring competition to Ames


Charlie Coffey/Iowa State Daily

A rider is thrown airborne off of his bull during the ISU indoor rodeo hosted by Double S Bull Company LLC on Feb. 21.

Greg Zwiers

A bucking black bull burst out of the gates, doing everything it could to throw its cowboy-hat wearing rider off its back. 

The Extreme Bull Riding Tour made a stop at the Hansen Agriculture Student Learning Center on Feb. 21, where 17 ISU organizations competed for cash prizes. 

The competitions included tug-of-war, a dance-off, blindfolded musical chairs and leg wrestling. The student organizations were split into four teams and competed between bull riding action. Each team that won an event earned $100.

Shad Smith and the Double S Bull Company LLC own all 40 of the bulls the riders attempted to conquer. Smith also runs the Extreme Bull Riding Tour, which is governed by the Bull Riders of America. Riders came from seven Midwestern states.

“It’s awesome being home. There’s nothing like being home for me,” said John Young, one of the bull riders and a native of Orient, Iowa.

He said the atmosphere was phenomenal. The full stands and the cheering fans make riders want to perform better.

Young, who won the second round of the Fort Worth Stock Show in 2014 and placed sixth at college nationals in 2013, received the loudest cheers upon introduction and had the most impressive résumé entering the night.

Eight of the riders were able to stay on their bull for the eight seconds required to get a qualified ride. The top six riders won award money. Smith said he was happy with the results because only two of the riders who “did their job” didn’t get paid. He said it’s difficult when a lot of riders qualify to tell many of them that their rides weren’t quite good enough for a check.

Riders get scores up to a theoretical 100, but scores in the 80s are typically seen as good rides.

Young said riders don’t often get to compete in heated indoor arenas like the Hansen Ag center during winter.

Jason Dent, or “Whistle-Nut” the rodeo clown, also punctuated the event. He ran all around the arena, at one point running to the top of the stands to slide down the hand railing and bantering with the announcer, Matt Palmer.

Dent brought a large metal teeter-totter into the arena at one point and, with a partner, attempted to evade a bull by jumping into the air as it came near. However, the bull ended up knocking the contraption over and they had to run for the fences.

“That bull is scary mean, but we came out unscathed,” Dent said. Dent was a bull rider before he became a rodeo clown or “funny man.”

The Extreme Bull Riding Tour has both adult and high school divisions. The high school division is defined as someone 18 or younger. Smith pairs the youth with some of his younger bulls.

Young was bucked off before he could reach eight seconds, meaning the ride didn’t count, but accepted an award on behalf of his parents for their work with the high school division. Young was a five-time winner of that series and said it gives the younger riders the chance to gain experience on younger bulls.

“Without youth, there is no professional,” Young said. He said his parents work with youth because they want to give back to the sport.

Smith said youth competition is necessary for bull riding with less people growing up in farming communities. By putting the youth on younger bulls, both the riders and the bulls get better. Smith said he wants to make sure he puts the riders on bulls of their caliber.

Smith said he received good feedback. It was the first indoor bull riding in Ames.

“By the end, people were screaming and yelling, so I think they enjoyed it,” Smith said.

Smith said he has big plans to expand the university portion of the competition in the coming years, including a potential bull ride.