Future Stars, Mini bull riders compete in first series
Lander – On March 27 HOWL Rodeo Bulls held its latest in the Ultimate Miniature Bull Riding (UMB) event series in Lander, with 24 contestants spread across the Mutton Bustin, PeeWee BullRiding and miniature bull riding divisions.
“Miniature bull riding is gaining popularity as an extreme sport and training aid for aspiring young bull riders,” says Tim O’Neal, owner of HOWL Rodeo Bulls. “Though small, the bulls buck similar to full-sized bulls.”
“I bought our first mini bull two years ago when my eight-year-old son Cole became interested in bull riding,” continues O’Neal. “Now we have 30 head and I have purchased them from as far away as Alabama and Texas.”
The UMB was founded for young bull riders ages nine to 14 and weighing under 130 pounds. The Professional Bull Riders-style events allow members to accumulate points throughout the season to qualify for the UMB Finals.
“We also have a Mutton Bustin for ages six and under, and PeeWee BullRiding for seven- to eight-year-olds,” says O’Neal. “To participate in these events you do not have to be a member of the UMB association. We have a special set of miniature bulls that don’t buck very hard for the PeeWee division. They allow the youngest bull riders to gain experience in the chutes and develop confidence and riding skills.”
According to UMB information, the miniature bulls are more beneficial to aspiring riders than getting on roping cattle or calves.
“Professional bullriders are seeing the benefits of the miniatures as well, with bull riding greats such as Wiley Peterson, Chris Shivers and Matt Austin using them in their bull riding schools,” says UMB. “The miniature bulls are a huge crowd pleaser.”
The American Bucking Bull Inc. registry for bucking bulls also recently began to register miniature bucking bulls. Eventually, mini bull competitions could coexist with full size bulls at PBR events.
As the contestants’ abilities grow they’re able to ride more challenging bulls. These bulls, ranging from 32 to 48 inches tall, have power, speed, kick and spin; all the elements of their full size counterparts. Bulls are available for any level rider, from the first-timers to those ready to move on to full-size bulls.
Brandyn Shane, 9, of Casper, was one of the first-timers at the Lander event. His brother, Jarron Shane, 12, and cousin, Bryan Harrison, 11, also of Casper, are experienced UMB riders at one and two years in competition, respectively.
“I’m excited about riding,” says Brandyn. “Bryan and Jarron, and the rest of my family, have given me a lot of pointers.”
While the miniature bull riders describe their experience in years, those riding the peewee bulls do so in number of rides.
“This will be my 30th time riding a bull,” says Cole O’Neal, 8, of Lander. “My dad has the mini bulls, so I get to practice sometimes.”
“Wylee has ridden five times,” says Cole, referring to his friend Wylee Simonson, 7, of Pavillion.
This is the first year O’Neal has produced a series with a UMB event every month, culminating with the finals at the end of the summer. The top five miniature bull riders in each event advance to the short go, where they draw to ride a second bull.
The top eight competitors from the UMB Finals will represent Wyoming at the Northwest Miniature Bull Riding Finals in Helena, Mont. in November. Colorado, Utah, Montana and Idaho will also send their top eight to the Northwest Finals. Contestants have a chance at around $7,000in prize money, as well as about $12,000 in prizes.
“Mini bulls are becoming more well known,” says O’Neal. “I have contracts for mine in Idaho, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming this summer.”
“The kids competing right now have talent,” he adds. “We have about a dozen contestants in the mini bull division this year. Hopefully, we’ll get some PBR stars out of this group.