Bull riders compete in Clovis

By Gabriel Monte: Freedom Newspapers

CLOVIS — Bonner Bolton didn’t need to rub a rabbit’s foot or keep a horeshoe, or even wear lucky socks Friday night when he got on Chaotic, about 1,500 pounds of riled-up muscle.

“I don’t have any rituals — I’m a firm believer in Jesus Christ,” said the 20-year-old bull rider who got the high score. “I pray before I get on, that helps me create the right focus each time.”

He and 40 other bull riders prepared themselves for the Professional Bull Riders Association Discovery Tour, a two-day event at Curry County Mounted Patrol Arena.

Another set of riders competed Saturday night.

Event organizer Marc Andrus said the tour is a chance for riders to earn money and make their way up in the rankings for the bull riding finals. Cash prizes for the event ranged from $3,000 to $400, he said.

Bolton, like many of the riders, grew up around the rodeo and come from a family of riders.

His father, Toya Bolton, is a top-ranked bull rider and taught Bonner to ride.

“I was blessed with a good teacher,” said Bonner Bolton, who started riding steers at a young age.

When the gates open, riders hold onto a rope strapped around the bull with one hand and try to stay on for eight seconds as the the bulls buck and spin violently, said Gerardo Venegas, 28, of Eules, Texas, who rode Saturday night.

He said riders aren’t allowed to use their free hand to touch any part of the bull for leverage.

Before the events started some bull riders go through a mental simulation of previous rides, with one hand in the air, they imitate the shaky, bucking motions of an imagnary bull like some strange indian spirit dance.

“Some people do that, they ride bulls in their head,” said Randy Quartieri, 19, of Los Alamos. “I do it. I close my eyes and go over the routine and ride the bull in my head.”

Most riders sit in silence to calm their nerves. Others, like C.L. Turner, 26, of Chocktaw, Oklahoma, applied rosin on their ropes to get a better grip when the bulls try to buck the riders off them.

Bull riding is a mental sport as much as it is physical, said Venegas who competed in the bull riding finals from 2003 to 2005.

“Most of the guys that have been to the finals will tell you it’s all about confidence,” he said. “It’s 90 percent mental.”