This ain't his first rodeo: Loper student rides bull for seven seconds
Ten-year-old Hunter Richards rode a bull for approximately 7 seconds last weekend.
This is just one of the few rodeo events the Loper Elementary School student does.
“Rodeo is a sport that’s not like football or anything else,” he said. “It’s more of a you versus you.”
In addition to bull riding (which rodeo participants refer to as riding rough stock, or steer riding), Richards also participates in poles, breakaway roping, goat tying, Texas 8, flags, and chute dogging.
Other rodeo events he doesn’t participate in include barrels, trail, steer wrestling, team roping, calf riding, mutton busting, steer riding, bronc riding.
“There’s a bunch of different things so you can have your own style or way,” he said.
In the four years Richards has done rodeo, he’s already started specializing.
“I think I specialize in Texas 8 and maybe a little bit in steer riding,” he said. “A little bit. My last ride I wrote almost 8 seconds.”
Texas 8 is a horse-riding event where Richards has to weave his horse, Cody, between three barrels in a line.
“He’s a really good rodeo horse,” Richards said of his 18 year old quarter horse. “We were looking for horses on Facebook after one of our horses, since he’s like twenty-something, he doesn’t really want to run.”
“We found one that this guy had that was $2,500,” he added. “And we found out he’s a good roping horse, or he was used for roping.”
Often in rodeo, participants will ride different horses for roping events than timed events. While Cody makes a good roping horse, the Richards purchased a new horse for timed events, another quarter horse named Ralph.
Richards competes in two rodeo leagues: the Midwest Youth Rodeo Association (MYRA) and the Southern Indiana Junior Rodeo Association. He’s competed three times in the last month.
MYRA is based out of Cloverdale, Indiana, and Richards competes for that league in the winter. For the rest of the year, he competes in the other league.
Divisions are based on grade or age level, depending on the league. Next year, when Richards starts sixth grade, he will compete in the National Indiana Rodeo Association.
For his division, he’s placed fifth overall. He’s in second place in Texas 8, fourth place in goat tying and poles, and third place in flags. There’s roughly 15 kids in his age division.
In 2019, he qualified for the National Little Britches Rodeo Association Finals in Oklahoma.
“We did previously participate in Little Britches, which is when I went to Oklahoma for Nationals for rodeo,” he said. “That was pretty fun. I actually liked Oklahoma, and we saw a lot of stuff there that was pretty interesting.”
He did goat tying, goat flipping, and barrels.
“I almost got stepped on doing that goat stuff,” he said.
Richards received several sponsorships from local businesses for him to go to Oklahoma, such as Cagney’s.
Richards’ next rodeo is this weekend at Cloverdale. He’s going to ride a bull again, and he’s aiming for eight seconds.
“I wanted to originally ride it for five or six seconds, but now after I’ve ridden for seven, I’m aiming for eight,” he said. “Whenever you’re out there it feels like you’ve been out there for thirty years. You’re like ‘it’s been like an hour, when is this going to end?’”
He’ll have to ride for eight seconds to get a score, his dad said.
“That’s his biggest improvement,” his dad, Darin, said.
Darin explained that rodeos have livestock contractors who bring in steer for the rough stock events, and officials draw to see which participant will ride which animal.
This has led Hunter to believe he needs Bull 238 to be lucky, because that’s the bull he rode twice – once for sx seconds and once for seven.
“He’s just a big baby and won’t do anything,” Hunter said. “He just sits there. Bucks. Runs. Bugs.”
Hunter’s mom, Deborah, said he is the only kid from Shelbyville who participates in rodeo. She would like to increase local participation in the sport.
“I’ve went to his school and showed the kids in his classroom everything he has to put on and I explained to them that they practice for a few months and that’s it, he has to practice year round because rodeo is a year-round sport,” she said. “I’m from Louisiana, so rodeo is a big sport down there, but up here, I try to get people to realize how much time and effort he has to put in. It’s everyday work.
Darin added: “We’ve tried to promote it to kids who aren’t exposed to it see that there’s other sports than those that just require a ball,” he said. “There’s other things you can get involved in. It’s not a sport that other people consider. It’s kind of cool, especially for the youth to get into, because – although it’s not a dying sport – not many do it.”
Rodeo is not affiliated with 4-H. You won’t see it at the county fair.
“4-H does a few little barrels and things like that, and pleasure shows, but not full blown rodeos,” Darin said.
And while Rodeo is an ISHAA sport, the Shelby County schools don’t recognize it as a sport. Deborah says this is bad because when Hunter is up there, Shelbyville is recognized.
“They call him out and say he is from Shelbyville, Indiana, he goes to Loper Elementary School – so Shelbyville gets recognized, but Shelbyville [schools] will not recognize him in his sport,” she said. “That’s where I want him to get recognized. When he goes to these events, I feel like he needs to be on his best behavior because he is representing Shelbyville and he is the only one up there representing Shelbyville.”
Hunter has taken some friends to watch him at rodeo events, but hasn’t managed to convince anybody to join him. His parents say this is because rodeo is a big commitment.
“It’s not cheap,” Darin said. “It’s like traveling basketball and baseball, and all that stuff. It’s your horse, you feed him year round, you trailer him, and it’s a commitment.”
Much of the sport is funded by sponsorships, like the ones Hunter received to go to Oklahoma. Darin said most of the sponsorship money the leagues receive goes right back to the kids through the events and prizes.
But the price is worth it for the camaraderie that rodeo participants form.
“Before Hunter rides, he goes and helps all the kids who are riding the sheep,” Deborah said. “That’s something I like. All the kids help each other out. When it’s his turn to ride, the older kids are there telling him he can do this, and talk him through it, instead of it being ‘me, me, me, me.”
Hunter will compete in two more rodeos with MYRA before that season ends. Anyone interested in getting involved in rodeo can find more information at http://www.sijra.org/.