PUEBLO, Colo. -- Well the time has finally come for me to hang up my spurs and close a chapter in my life that has been amazing and something I’d hoped would never end. In one hand, I’m sad that it’s over and I wish it would last longer. But on the other hand, I’m happy for the experiences, friends and success that I was so fortunate to have over the years.
This may come as a surprise to a lot of people that thought I had retired years ago because they haven’t seen me competing in quite a while. Truthfully, I thought maybe I was going to be forced into retirement in 2015 due to some health issues that happened.
For those that don’t know, in 2015 my balance, eye sight, and speech all deteriorated instantly one night as I was driving back to Colorado from Oklahoma. I didn’t know what was wrong with me or when it would get better, so I didn’t tell many people other than my family and friends. Originally it was thought that I had a stroke. When those tests came back negative, then it was thought that these were concussion-related effects. But that was eventually ruled out as well.
Over the course of the next couple years, I went through lots of balance and eye sight therapy to regain everything. I worked hard over those years not knowing if I would ever be able to feel normal again, let alone be able to ride bulls again. Eventually I got better at dealing with the symptoms and could drive and ride a horse again, but I’d always feel like I was drunk.
Finally, a tumor in my neck was found. It was wrapped around the carotid artery and was choking down blood flow to my brain and putting pressure on some different nerves that go to my face. Then January of 2017, the tumor was removed through surgery and I instantly felt better after waking up that day.
At last, the problem was solved!
Recovery took quite a while, but after working hard for several months, I was able to start riding bulls again in July 2017. It was what I’d dreamed of doing about every single day while my head was messed up. Being able to ride again seemed like such a distant goal for those two years, but now it was a reality. And so I rode at some smaller events and rodeos trying to get back in the groove and trust my body again. It was great being able to do it again. But with it came one thing that I wasn’t expecting. Riding bulls just didn’t mean as much to me as it used to.
I could still ride good and rode several great bulls, but the fulfillment after the ride just wasn’t there like it was before. Still planning on riding bulls, but not knowing to what extent that I would go, I’ve still been riding at select events sometimes.
But this past weekend I made the decision to step away for good.
I was riding at an event and during the ride my bicep tore off the bone on my riding arm. We were just a couple jumps into the ride and I was riding correctly when the muscle snapped. A little more than 24 hours later I was in the hospital doing emergency surgery to remove a large hematoma that had occurred due to excessive bleeding inside my arm. They also reattached my bicep at that time. And as I lay there recovering from surgery, I came to the conclusion that if riding bulls doesn’t mean as much as it used to me, then there was no reason to keep tearing myself apart for it.
It’s no secret that bull riding is a rough sport, but the only way to be very successful at it is to love it so much that you’re willing to die for it. For all my life that had been true.
In my mind there would never be a day that I didn’t love riding bulls, and I couldn’t fathom stepping away from it. Well that day has finally arrived, and it honestly feels very strange to me!
One thing I’m super thankful for is the friendships that were developed over the years with not only fellow riders, but with fans, stock contractors, producers, bullfighters, journalists and all the other people involved in bull riding and rodeo over the years. Big thanks to all the companies that have stood beside me over the years as well too. Wrangler, Enterprise Rent a Car, DeWalt, Stanley, Anderson Bean Boots, Lincoln Electric, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
There’s way too many people to thank by name, but just know that if I’ve ever shaken your hand and shared a few words, I’m thankful to have met you and called you a friend.
And thanks to PBR for the opportunity to make a great living and compete against some of the most badass bull riders that I’ve ever known. I’m very grateful for that and feel fortunate to have occasionally beat some of those legends.
Watching some of the new young guys coming up and chasing their dreams gives me hope for the future of the sport. And I hope they never take for granted this time in their lives, and that they never quit working harder to become a better athlete and cowboy every single day. Our sport is one unlike any other, and I encourage the next generation to carry the heritage forward with pride. Continue to represent the cowboy athlete with integrity, hard work and dedication.
Lastly and certainly most importantly, I’d like to thank my wife, Candace, for her unwavering support over the years. She is the other half of me that encourages and lifts me up whenever I was broken or beat down. She’s also the number one ranch hand taking care of everything around the ranch when I was gone. And my savior Jesus Christ that gave me the ability to do something I love for so long. I don’t know how riding bulls fit into Your plan, but I know that You were at work there and I credit my success to You.
So now I’m not sure exactly what the future holds, but I’m looking forward to the next ride along this wild thing called life.
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