Not many people know this,but I’m a huge fan of Pro Bull Riding. Im not sure why,really all it is is a big angry bovine and a lunatic mad enough to try and stay on it. Seems stupid,but it’s quite some spectacle. One guy I worked for had a sticker on the cab of his lorry. It was the three Budweiser frogs but instead of bud-weis-er,the sticker said Bull-ri-der. It was almost prophetic for me.
Bodacious was a PBR bull in the early 00’s. He was forced to retire early by the powers that be because he started laying waste to his riders. Quickly dubbed ‘The most dangerous bull in the world’,the final straw came when he caused serious facial injury to Tuff Hedeman and Scott Bredling and he was sent to stud age just seven. His story got me thinking. I have ridden a few equine Bodacious-esque horses in my time…..
I have mentioned Khudabad before-a chestnut Ashkalani gelding with a serious attitude problem and the ability to buck like a rodeo bull at 30mph. Another chestnut gelding-this time by Furisto-really started the brokenboneathon when I was 18. His owner was helping me and I had ridden the horse for 4 days prior to the disaster. This particular day,the owner wasn’t paying attention when holding the rope and the horse lost whatever was left of its tiny mind,leaping forward and upwards followed by immediately backwards and then upside down. Fossetts circus was never in it. His bounty included breaking my nose and jaw,leaving me pouring with blood and severely concussed. Nice. I wasnt always this ugly.
Around the same time in my life,another murderous angry chestnut arrived.He went by the name of Archie and he cost a pretty penny at the sales. By Cardinal Flower out of a mare by Pry,he was beautiful and the type of horse that could do any job. He didn’t agree. He was a total bastard. As soon as I started working him on the ground,I knew I was screwed. Someone had tried and failed to ride him,and he was pissed. He used to twist in the middle and flick himself around 180 degrees about 10 feet up in the air,and this equine Polaris Breach was designed to do damage. In the end,he was got going and sold to point to point,but he never did anything of note-truly I can’t imagine anyone could have managed to stay on with a saddle the size of a teabag. You want Velcro and a seatbelt for that one,love…..
My mother started breeding horses in 1998. One of them was a massive big bay gelding,a full brother to my special little horse (Mist) but nothing like him at all. This horse was stunning,but he was so anxious. He would stand at his stable door bucking on the spot and sweating. He was so easy to break and he was super to ride. He jumped like a dream and the future looked golden. One day,he came out to work and started seriously rearing The minute I sat into the saddle. I had no idea why,and since we had bred and broken him ourselves,we knew he had suffered no ill fortune or incident. I fiddled around with bits and tack,the Physio,vet and dentist checked him but nothing pointed to the problem. I persevered with the panoramic views of Westmeath and the subsequent whiplash and vertigo,I tried everything in my ample arsenal to encourage the horse but he just got worse. Horses don’t just suddenly start walking on two legs instead of four,right? I dragged the horse hither and yon for gastroscopes and X-rays and every-goddamn-thing but still no clues. That horse in particular made me realise one thing-I was not,as I so fondly believed,able to ride any horse. I sure as fuck couldn’t ride this one. The final straw came when he bolted with me in a small arena and started launching himself vertically in a sort of rear as he went. Faster,Higher. Twice he landed on his hinds and went again. The third time,the stupid bastard missed with his hinds and he flipped over backwards at serious speed. I was BLESSED that the speed threw me clear. Two feet to the right and I was dead-that’s a certainty. We both lay side by side in the sand,neither of us got up for quite a while. Physically we were ok,but mentally not so much. I tried him again a few months later,as did two other guys but in the end he always reverted to this. He also suddenly wasn’t able to travel. He loaded fine,but the second you moved the rig he became seriously dangerous. My mother found a lad who was mad to buy him,but he was a dealer and I was petrified that the guy might get himself killed or sell the horse on. I told no one the day I had the horse taken away. When word finally got out,it caused a major rift in my family but in honesty it would have been grossly irresponsible to do anything different. I am sure there was a reason why the horse suddenly lost his shit,there always is. In this case,I never found it.
my list of fractures and injuries is impressive.It includes fractures of the skull,wrist,pelvis,fingers,toes,arm,shoulder blade,ribs,sternum and jaw,and damage to tendons in my right shoulder,glute tears and sprains of many joints. I am only 34. I’m a good rider,a skilled producer of young horses with a good eye,and a depth of knowledge many twice my age don’t possess. Was it worth it,all these bastard horses and stupid injuries? No. Of course not. But I’m here now,and I’m doing my best.