COLUMBIA — When Kaleb Baurichter got thrown off a bull at the Missouri High School Rodeo State Finals on Friday night, his family was more than worried. Not just because the bull managed to buck Baurichter off, but also because Baurichter landed on his back.
Baurichter has a birth defect in his spinal column that forces him to wear a back brace when he rides. A bone abnormality causes pain in his lower back and has gradually worsened from rodeo riding.
The pressure of landing on his back probably didn’t help.
“The bull threw me off and slammed me down. It knocked the wind out of me,” he said. “When I came off, I landed on my back and had sharp pains around my hips, side and back.”
Baurichter chose not to go to the hospital after the incident, but instead worked with the medical team and chiropractors at the rodeo at the Boone County Fairgrounds. After they examined him, they taped him around his waist for support, according to Gayle Baurichter, his stepmother. X-rays on Saturday morning showed that no bones were broken.
Kaleb Baurichter was too far behind in points to make it to the national finals this year, because he sat out part of the Missouri High School Rodeo season because of his back. Even with the pain from the previous night, the 15-year-old Hickman High School student competed Saturday in the short go, the final performance of the rodeo. He said he wasn’t hesitant at all to give it another try.
“My family didn’t want me to ride, but I decided I wanted to come out and ride again,” he said. “I felt good enough to. It’s the state finals, so I figured I might as well ride.”
Gayle Baurichter said she and Kaleb Baurichter’s father, David, were wary of their son riding again Saturday night. The urgent care doctors at University Hospital, where Kaleb Baurichter had X-rays, told them it was mostly a muscular strain from the way he landed, suggesting that he take some time off to heal the muscles and see his orthopedic doctor in a couple weeks for a follow-up.
Ultimately, they left the decision up to their son. He didn’t last long on the bull at Saturday’s performance, but he didn’t get hurt either. Kaleb Baurichter’s parents could breathe a sigh of relief after he got up. Even so, Gayle Baurichter said she understands that “roughstock rodeo riders get hurt.”
“If you get into that sport, you know that you’re going to get injured, and you have to be able to accept that,” she said. “It’s when and how badly you get injured, but that’s the gamble you take for the love of the sport.”
Despite the condition of his back, Kaleb Baurichter said he loves the sport and he wants to keep riding anyway. He hopes to get a rodeo scholarship for college to continue bull riding.
Cody Case of Fulton and Shayne Henbest of Aurora were hospitalized after bull-related injuries at the finals, but both were in attendance at the awards ceremony Sunday to accept their awards. Case earned second place and Henbest earned third place in the event. Henbest did not participate in the short go performance Saturday per doctor’s orders.
The state finals were held Thursday through Saturday at the Boone County Fairgrounds. Bull riding was one of many events in which 71 qualifying cowboys and cowgirls from across the state came to compete.
Event winners received a customized saddle, and the top four finishers in each event received a buckle. The top four finishers in each event also qualified for the 60th annual National High School Finals Rodeo, which will be held July 20 through July 26 in Farmington, N.M.