PUEBLO, Colo. – One of the greatest joys H.D. Page gets from raising bucking bulls is similar to one many parents can relate to.
Page loves working with his younger bulls and seeing them one day grow up into successful bovine stars.
Lately, he has been able to bask in the glory of raising two PBR superstars in 2015 World Champion Bull Long John and 2015 ABBI Classic Champion Bruiser.
The 5-and 4-year-old bovines, respectively, stole the show at this past season’s Built Ford Tough World Finals and they will now head back to the Thomas & Mack Center for the 2015 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, which begins on Thursday night.
“They are animal athletes and they have an idea of what they are going to do when that gate opens,” Page said. “Even when they are yearlings and 2-year-olds they already have a plan. When that gate opens, they know they are going to get their front end up, they are going to kick and they are going to turn. Most of them have a direction that they prefer. In their mind, they are preparing themselves mentally. It is our job to try and not distract them with all of the other stuff, just let them do their business. They are bred to do that.
“That is the fun part for me. Preparing them young bulls and getting them ready.”
Preparation has been big for Page as he used the summer months to haul Long John and Bruiser to various rodeos to try and get them qualified for the NFR. D&H Cattle Company’s ability to keep their bulls in prime shape for the extra amount of travel and competition was a major benefit in the two bulls earning qualifications for both the World Finals and the NFR.
In fact, Long John was the runner-up for the 2015 PRCA Bucking Bull of the Year title to Crystal Deal.
The PRCA’s Bucking Bull of the Year is decided by a rider vote, unlike the PBR’s World Champion Bull, which is decided based on two outs during the World Finals following a rider vote that deems which bulls are eligible.
According to ProBullStats.com, Crystal Deal bucked 10 times in 2015, compared to Long John’s 21 total outs – 14 of which came on the PBR’s elite Built Ford Tough Series.
Crystal Deal averaged 45.6 points per out on the rodeo trail and bucked off all of his 10 opponents, while Long John averaged 44.5 in four PRCA outs. Long John averaged 45.43 points per out in his 14 BFTS outs.
The NFR will be the first time the two bovine athletes have competed at the same event.
Long John has gone 42-8 in three years of competition at the PBR and pro rodeo level.
Part of what made Long John’s 21 outs even more impressive in 2015, the second consecutive year the bull made 20-plus outs, was the fact that he dealt with a couple of injuries during his championship season.
Just before the beginning of the World Finals, Page learned Long John had arthritis.
“We took him to OSU (Oklahoma State University) and they did some X-rays and stuff and he has a little bit of arthritis in his ankle,” Page revealed on the last day of the Finals. “He is going to have to deal with that for now on.”
Page added that Long John responded well to the medicine being used to help treat the arthritis.
Long John had also cut his back right foot during the summer.
If Long John’s ankle bothered him in October, it was hard to tell.
Long John used a wicked explosion on the final day of the Finals to earn a bull score of 47.25 points for a 7.41-second buckoff of Fabiano Vieira to win the world title.
“With his size and athletic ability, I believe when everything works right he is ranker than any bull I have ever raised,” Page said.
Reigning Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger offered his kudos to Long John and D&H Cattle Company at the Finals.
“Long John was just better than the rest,” Berger said. “My hat’s off to him. Nobody has a better breeding program and they cleaned up at the ABBI events this week.”
Berger has also hauled bulls (Cooper Tires Brown Sugar, Red Bone, Semper Fi and Stuntin Like My Daddy) to Las Vegas this week for the NFR.
Joining Long John and Bruiser in Las Vegas for the NFR from D&H Cattle Company is Movin on Up, No Regrets and Brutus.
When it comes time for his bulls to buck during the NFR, Page knows they will be ready.
His job is just to make sure they will be comfortable when their name is called.
“It is our job to get them to where you can haul them, unload them, get them in a pen and they will lay down and eat and drink and do things like they are supposed to,” he said. “All of the cameras, people around, loud noises and all of that stuff they are not used to (at first). “It is our job to prepare them as best we can to make them comfortable in their surroundings.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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