Get off your pockets, make good use of the arm of the sofa, stay focused on your passion—just a few tips from a very young yet very serious roughstock rider.

My 5-year-old son has discovered a new passion in life—besides catching lizards and irritating his sister. He’s now into roughstock riding. He constantly talks about riding bulls, broncs and anything else that might buck. He hasn’t ruled out camels or bison at this point. He recently came out of a real bucking chute at our friend’s house, so there is no stopping the boy now. Here are a few tips from a fledgling bronc rider

Never pass up a chance to practice your craft. 

Don’t ride your bicycle around the yard; reach up and spur that sucker in the spokes. Forget about simply sitting quietly in the living room to watch a Disney movie; straddle the arm of the couch and get in rhythm with Skoal’s Laz-E-Boy. Don’t let your dad read a book in peace and quiet; constantly pepper him with questions like, “Why do bareback riders lay all the way back on their horses?” “Do saddle bronc riders wear neck braces, too?” “You reach forward with your hand when the horse’s feet are up, right?” A growing cowboy needs to know these things. 

Also, that fictitious bronc name makes me sound old enough to have watched Ty Murray live when he was in his prime (which I definitely am). 

If you don’t have an actual neck brace, improvise with a travel pillow.

The two pieces of protective sports equipment are practically the same thing. No one can tell the difference if you shove the front part of the travel pillow far enough down the collar of your shirt. I wonder if the guys in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association are aware of this trick? Somebody should send Tilden Hooper an email. 

Help others become better roughstock riders by randomly yelling, “Get off your pockets!”

It doesn’t matter if you’re hollering at your sister and she’s trotting your dad’s old ranch horse around a friend’s arena. Pay no mind to the exasperated look she throws you over her shoulder. One day, she might find herself in a jackpot on a bad bucker and remember to get off her pockets, all thanks to you. Regardless of her—or anyone else’s—future outcome, repeating the phrase often will firmly embed it in your mind and help you stay out over the front and make the whistle. 

young rough-stock rider
Riding a bull means riding a bull, regardless of the age of the beast.
Photo by Jolyn Young

Always tell people you rode a bull, even if it was technically a calf.

A bull is a bull. People don’t need to know that it was a little bull still nursing his mama. It ain’t braggin’ if you’ve done it. 

Stay the course

Pay no mind to those who try to dissuade your roughstock riding dreams, especially the short brunette woman who cooks dinner, answers to “Mom” and says things like “What about calf roping? That seems like a nice sport. You should try something that’s not so violent, a rodeo event where the contestants wear starched jeans and don’t get pummeled into the arena dirt quite as often.” 

Follow the call you feel in your heart. Mom’ll get used to it. 

Author

Jolyn Young lives with her cowboy husband, Jim, and their three kids near Fallon, Nevada. She chooses to focus on the comical side of life, because her family is going to laugh at her anyway.

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