Wellness: Even Cowboys Get Hurt

July 13 2012, 10:45 AM

Last Saturday, I went to the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Tour—the first offical rodeo for this native Michigander—to find out how bronco and bull riders prevent injury. Outside of being thrown 15 feet in the air, stomped on, and gored, there had to be day-to-day overuse injuries that the guys worked fanatically to avoid by warming up, right? Well, kind of. Five riders who have survived dislocations, ACL tears, punctured lungs, and squished guts, gave me their pre- and post-ride workouts:

ON THE PRE-SEASON:

Larry Carter: "Some guys get on practice horses, I just work on a ranch and do guided hunts—elk hunts—so there's a lot of hiking."

Rand Selle: "I'll do P90X every Monday through Friday."

Ryan Heupal: "I work out with Insanity before the season begins. I tried yoga and it will kick your ass."

All: "Yeah."

5280: "You all do yoga?"

Shane Faulkner: "Oh yeah. It keeps you flexible. And it'll kick your ass."

ON PRE-RIDE WARM-UPS:

Lyle Welling: "I like moving around, walking around to warm up. That way I don't think about stuff. Probably looks like some form of pacing. That's about all I do."

Heupal: "I tape my knuckles. Most bronc riders do. Once calluses start, they're tough and don't go away. Every rider has scars up and down their forearms."

Carter: "I have a tail pad down the back of my shorts to prevent my tail bone from breaking, neck roll to prevent whiplash, and wear forearm guards. I tape up my arm, because when a horse bucks, you don't want to hyper-extend your elbow. I've never had my elbow really messed up, but it hurts a lot. Especially this time of year, when you ride almost every day. Your body gets broke down, and you just keep going. You stretch like you do for anything, I guess."

ON PREVENTION IN THE RING: 

Selle: "You want to land belly down so you can catch yourself. You stay down until you see where the horse is and then roll away from it. The first mistake I ever made was jumping up immediately after I fell. The horse kicked only a foot above my head."

ON POST-BUCK RECOVERY:

Faulkner: "Ibuprofen. Oh yeah, they're your friend. I'll have Aleve three times a day. And Equi-Block [an equine topical pain reliever]. You rub it on, like Tiger Balm for heat, but it has steroids. You don't want to wrap that at all."

Heupal: "If you wrap it..."

Faulkner: "It'll blister you."

Heupal: "...you'll be unwrapping it real quick."

Welling: "Anything that's sore, you stretch it. You tape anything that gets bunged up, like ankles. Tough guys like this guy [points at Faulkner] don't need nothing. Lots of guys get hurt and wear knee braces on."

5280: Does anyone else stretch?

All: "Nope."

Heupal: "The most common injuries are contusions, bruises. You get hurt when you get on a harder ride, jerking or something, and you always strain an extra muscle, which you don't usually do on easier ones. It's always something."

Faulkner: "Everybody's different. Other guys will have problems with their backs, lower backs, elbows."

Welling: "I had a horse squash my guts. It took a year to recover. The best thing I did was got on as many horses as I could when I got back. One day, I got on 20 head. It was a long day, but they were colts and didn't have much power. Though there's a fine line—you can get tired from riding so many and then get hurt."

ON WHY THEY DO IT: 

Welling: "There's a thrill in it, no other way to explain it."

5280: Is there anything else that can match that thrill?

Faulkner: "Flying. I bought an ultralight flyer and that comes close."

Heupal: "Fist fighting."

—Image courtesy of David Epperson.