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Pac West Xtreme Bull Riding team making noise
Four years ago, Henry Stueve and his son, Tyler, looked for an arena to work on their bull riding skills.
"We found that stock contractors didn't have much for practice," recalled Henry Stueve, "so we would go to a rodeo school twice a year for a weekend each time. Then we built our own arena in our front yard and bought some bulls."
Networking has its rewards.
"We soon found that I needed help to be able to run the practices, and there were a couple fathers that were looking for a practice for their sons," Stueve said. "So we combined forces, and started a practice arena. It then turned into a traveling bull-riding team, a lot like a traveling softball team."
The start of the Pac West Xtreme Bull Riding team was underway.
The squad is a non-profit bull organization that runs a practice arena in Marysville, along with a cowboy church at rodeos. Bull riding is open to children between the ages of 4 to 17, and weekly practices are open to everyone. Three-year old kids can start, but they begin riding a sheep before advancing to a bull to accomplish that 8 seconds of exciting ride on a bucking bull that is doing all it can to bump that rider off its back.
"On a sheep, they learn what we call home base," Stueve said.
There is an average of 20 riders at practices. There are usually 40 at rodeos. This year, the group has already taken part in nearly a half-dozen rodeos, including three that Pac West has hosted. Its next rodeo will be next month.
An option of attending church services is a huge bonus to families who don't want to miss church on rodeo weekends.
"The cowboy church service is open to riders, parents and public," Stueve said. "We seem to get close to 60 at the cowboy church service," Stueve said. "They all ride very well, but most important to being asked to be a Pac West team member is how you handle yourself out of the arena."
One of the first things a beginning bull rider learns is proper chute procedures.
"It will allow you to at least start the ride correctly," Stueve said. "We go over getting off the animal and getting out of the arena safely. We really try and have the right animal for young riders."
Practices are held almost year round — sans the winter season.
"We hold practice at least 40 times a year, and this is where these young riders learn to win the buckles," Stueve said.
Practices are not easy — just ask Tyler, who started bull riding at age 9.
In January, the Marysville High School sophomore was invited to participate in the Kish Bucking Best in Red Bluff, considered one of the best open bull-riding events in California. Tyler and other riders qualified for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association's California Circuit finals. They will compete against other top bull riders from Oregon, Idaho and Utah in their division.
In years past, Tyler has been the state champion of calf riding, along with winning the 2008 Wrangler Junior High Bull Riding title. Also in 2008, he was the Wrangler Junior High Bull Riding champion, and finished 19th in the nation and 23rd in the world in the division. He was also the 2007 Pee-Wee Bull State champion.
Henry Stueve said his son works on his ground game outside the arena; the Marysville High School sophomore does about 250 to 500 push-ups and 500 sit-ups a day to develop the core of his body that relies heavily on strength during those long 8 seconds of riding, along with a regular gym work out.
"We get on bulls every week," said the elder Stueve. "Tyler is striving for perfection."
Now a member of the California Cowboys Professional Rodeo Association, Tyler has held his ground against the best in California; last year, he won two pro rodeos in Yreka and Bishop, and captured the 2009 CCPRA Rookie of the Year award.
"What was funny when I checked in, the secretary questioned my age and she was concerned I would be out of my element," Tyler said. "At 16, I felt like I couldn't wait until I turn 18, but it also gives me two more years to keep practicing and getting better."
Bull riding is not cheap. According to Stueve, each rider pays around $1,000, that includes insurance, plus helps pay for judges, announcers and awards.
"We started to fund raise to defer the cost of practice and help put kids in the right gear for bull riding," Stueve said. "We're always looking for the local community for sponsorship to help with this; arena signs buckle sponsors and event sponsors are just some ways to help events happen."
Obtaining sponsors can have one's work cut out for them, especially in today's economy.
"Businesses don't like giving to just one individual," said Henry Stueve. "Businesses should look to these young kids and see the potential of getting a lot of advertisement up and down California."
The bull riding team has 200 members, according to its Facebook profile, that includes photos at previous rodeos in Marysville, Red Bluff and Plymouth, along with comments made by current and former bull riders, family and friends.
The younger Stueve gives advice to anyone who is interested in wanting to become a bull rider.
"Keep learning and start your push-ups and sit-ups because your core strength is so important," Tyler said.
Henry Stueve added, "Be ready for a lot of work. Baseball players practice to hit the ball, basketball players practice to make the shot. And bull riders have to practice to ride for eight seconds."