Youth Bull Riders World Finals comes to Abilene

I’m a city girl, born and raised in San Antonio. Growing up there, I went to the annual Stock Show and Rodeo. However, I’ve really come to embrace and love the full-out Western culture and experiences that we have right here in Abilene. Since moving here for college, I’ve seen team roping, barrel horse racing, branding, sheep-shearing, team penning, ranch rodeos and much more. After last weekend, I have another experience to add to the list: the CINCH Youth Bull Riding World Finals.

The YBR was a very exciting event for Abilene to get the opportunity to host. Not to mention, our Expo Center looked great! With new bucking chutes, Abilene was ready to welcome this group with open arms and kick their event into high gear. It was also the first time the event was held in our city; they came to us from Fort Worth. We had approximately 300 young competitors in our presence from all over the United States – as well as Mexico and Canada.

I learned a lot about the industry the week that the bull riders were in town. The CBR is known as the “richest bull riding in the world” – offering close to $70,000 in awards at this event. The YBR adopted the mission to host an event that would bring together the top athletes in their respective age divisions and award six World Champion titles. The competitors’ ages range from 4 to 19. The six events/categories at the YBR include: mutton bustin’ (ages 6 and under – they ride sheep); calf riding (8 and under); junior riding (10 and under); senior riding (13 and under); junior bulls (15 and under); and bull riding (19 and under.).

My first question was, “Do the junior bulls buck?” The second, “How big are the animals in the junior category? Help me put this in perspective!” The third, “How old do you have to be to get on a full grown bull?” Event organizer and YBR chairman, Andy Carter, just smiled as he helped me answer those. 1) He said, “Oh yes.” 2) A 10-year-old will already be riding an animal that weighs about 1,200 lbs. 3) Sixteen. Let’s just say, I was doing a lot of flinching while watching the finals. Those bulls pack a lot of power.

Another neat thing about the World Finals is that Tuff Hedeman was there to shake each one of the competitors’ hands as they headed into the arena. If you’ll remember, the film “8 Seconds” chronicles the life of Lane Frost, PRCA Bull Riding World Champion and his friendship with Tuff (three-time World Champ) and Cody Lambert. What a celebrity those children got to meet that day!

In addition to promoting rodeo competition to youngsters, the YBR stresses the importance of giving back to the community. (Another thing that I loved about this event). Proceeds benefitted several non-profit organizations assisting with children’s health issues, such as Ropin’ Dreams. While in town, the YBR visited sick children in a wing of one of our local hospitals – bringing them gifts and sharing their time – putting aside the spirit of competition for a while.

The good news? Abilene will not only host the Youth Bull Riders this year, but also in 2012 and 2013. So, if you missed this action-packed event this year – don’t worry. Be on the lookout for it towards the end of next summer! Stay tuned or for new dates. You can also view a full list of the winners on the YBR website listed above.