HAVING THEIR WAY
JM Pulido waited in the parking lot as long as he could as he tried to get in the right state of mind before mounting Pistol Pete.
Pulido was one of 28 riders who tried and withstand eight grueling seconds on the back of massive bulls during the Old Spanish Days Fiesta PBR Touring Pro Bull Riding event Thursday night at Earl Warren Showgrounds.
It was a reunion of sorts of Pulido, who grew up in Carpinteria. He had to take a year off after being stomped on by a bull, which shattered his ribs, punctured his lungs and broke his wrist.
“It wasn’t what I wanted, but it’s better than falling right out of the gate,” he said, just minutes after he was bucked off his bull just a few seconds into his ride. “I would rather take (my chance) and miss than not take it.”
The 23-year-old graduate of Foothill Alternative School said his dad’s side of the family has always been into the rodeo scene. Although his father never got into it, Pulido would watch his uncles compete and knew that’s what he wanted to do.
“That’s how I found my love for it,” he said.
He plans on taking the next month off to train before the PBR Velocity Tour picks up in September.
“I’m definitely going to check that out and try and make it to the finals,” he said.
Pulido was one of only two local riders to compete in the event. He was joined by Adrian Contreras, 19, who graduated from San Marcos High School in 2018.
It was the first time in a while that Contreras was able to compete in front of family and friends. He took part in the event last year, but said his run was much shorter.
“Last year was much worse than this year because I was just starting off, but now I have more of a grip on it,” he said, adding that he’s only been riding for two years.
Contreras was the first competitor to enter the ring, which made it that much more difficult.
“I thought I was going to do better than I did, but the time went fast,” he said.
The vast majority of the riders faced similar issues, with only two riders – Josh Tucker, of Fresno, and Will Centoni, of Tracy – eclipsing eight seconds in the first round.
Contreras said he hasn’t competed much in the past seven months as he tried to recover from knee and wrist injuries. He’s spent the past two weeks training five days a week in Bakersfield.
“I think it comes down to the effort you put in,” he said. “I knew what I was doing and just tried to block everything out. It’s just you and the bull – it’s not soccer or football, you don’t have teammates. It’s just you and him.”
Contreras will be riding in the Fiesta Parade this afternoon and plans on being back at the showgrounds tonight and Saturday to cheer on his friends in the Rodeo Cowboy Association.
“I was really just hoping to get a little more, but hey that’s rodeo,” he said. “You have your good days and your bad days.”
The most important thing was that he was able to walk away without injury.
“My mom says that’s always a win,” he said with a laugh.
Though he is one of the younger riders, Contreras said being around the professionals during an event like Thursday’s serves as great motivation.
“I know I have it in me, and that’s the most important part,” he said. “If you’re just thinking about this and that you’re not going to go anywhere, so it’s better just to focus on doing your job? you just have to focus on what you can control and that’s the work you put in.”
He admitted that growing up he never saw himself riding bulls, but after spending time with Pulido and other riders closer to his age, he developed an infatuation for the sport.
“I’m not scared to get hurt, it’s all part of the game,” he said. “I’m barely starting out, so I’m not really worried about staying on? I’m just building myself up.
“A lot of people call me crazy, but I just say they’re too scared to do it.”
Before the competitors hopped on the bulls, several young future cowboys and cowgirls had their chance to try and ride on the backs of sheep. A few of the sheep weren’t quite as aggressive, which allowed the youngsters to hang on as long as they could – with several coming away with impressive showings.
Prior to the event, more than a dozen protestors stood outside the parking lot of the showgrounds to speak out against animal cruelty. The group held signs that read “Buck the Rodeo,” and “Boycott Cruelty” and a man with a speaker phone shouted at vehicles as they entered the venue.
Some of the competitors will be back again tonight for the 2019 Old Spanish Days Rodeo/Stock Horse Show, scheduled for 7:30 p.m.