by Hope Holland

While most of the youngsters in the six- to 10-year-old group of little horse and pony riders are working on their lead line and short stirrup skills in shows, young bull riders of the same age are, well, riding bulls. It was realized that there was a need for smaller and age-appropriate bulls to be used for the younger riders, but they still have to be bulls with bull-appropriate attitudes of general intransigence and the athletic ability to enforce that attitude when it comes to being ridden for eight seconds.

The mini bulls were the bright idea of Lillie and Cirildo Leal of Lockney, Texas. In 2010 they started a mini bull stock contracting business supplying little bulls to local rodeos. The Leals’ vision of a Miniature Bull Riders’ (MBR) circuit caught the attention of Chris Shivers, a two-time Professional Bull Rider (PBR) World Champion, who came on board and became a partner in the Leals’ vision. MBR promotes the sport of youth bull riding and the values that are important to those who participate in the PBR: self-confidence, respect and sportsmanship.

Butch and Krista Groft of Union Bridge, MD, while creating bulls that can and do compete on the tough PBR circuits, also recognized the need for smaller and somewhat tamer bulls to compete on the MBR circuits and began breeding those small bulls. Their Buck Wild Rodeo Bulls outfit is an official sponsor of MBR and of some of the smaller bull riders themselves. This desire of the very youngest cowboys (ages eight and nine for the Pee Wee Division, 10 and 11 in the Junior Division and up to 12 to 14 for the Senior Division) needs to not only be encouraged but encouraged safely with the use of age and size relevant bull riding stock.

Butch and Krista have the acreage, the chutes and the stock to put on miniature bull riding clinics that can bring a young bull rider to the level of riding at which he is safe to get on those bad little bulls in competitions. The competitions range from Maine to Virginia in the Northeastern Division of the MBR where the boys at the Buck Wild Rodeo Bulls compete.

According to Butch, “Buck Wild Rodeo Bulls does its own Little Buckers Tour in the Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia four state area. We go to the fairs to show people what these very young men can do, and we will be at a fair one day per fair with this ‘in your face advertising’ of the sport.”

He continued, “Marc Brand, who has Triple R Bull Company, and I were on the road most of this past summer hauling bulls to the fairs and I think it was 19 different rodeos for the tour. What this does is give these boys the whole bull rider experience behind the chutes as well as learn that they are often role models for the kids that have never been exposed to the mini bull idea.”

An understated modesty in action and speech is prized by the men who ride the very dangerous big bulls in rodeos and the PBR circuits because the champion rider today can just as quickly be the man on crutches behind the chutes tomorrow. It is understood that pride easily goeth before a fall in this mainly Christian group of people, which makes pride, and its attendant bragging, a habit that is frowned upon. The boys learn that handling themselves in public with an air of quiet reserve is a trait that is approved of.

Surprisingly, the mothers of these young bull riders are just as willing partners in their young sons’ partiality for getting on rough little bulls as their fathers are. Many of those mothers are married to former cowboys, many of whom grew up in and worked in the rodeo and PBR world themselves.

Butch and Krista Groft’s Buck Wild Rodeo Bulls sponsored three riders who went to Las Vegas for the International Miniature Bull Association finals – Cody McCandless of Derry, PA, Nicholas Jackson from Upper Marlboro, MD, and Ashwin Bronc Jessee, of Stanardsville, VA. While others spend a lot of time explaining what the youth of today need and should have to be successful, Buck Wild Rodeo Bulls is putting in the actual time, work and money where those others’ theories are.

Happily, 2018 was a big year for the Northeastern Section of MBR at Las Vegas. Jessee won the Average 2018 IMBA High Stakes Chute Out Champion by being the winner of round one on Gator, with a score of 64, taking second in round two on Oreo with a score of 62. It should be mentioned this young fellow was in the 5 Years and Under Division but in his pictures he looks no less the cowboy – if you overlook the fact that the adult-sized Montana Silversmiths belt buckle that he won is so big that he may need to wear suspenders if he actually puts it on his belt.