Cattlemen Days Rodeo creates big challenge for bull rider

Friday, August 24, 2012 | 11:29 p.m. CDT; updated 11:12 a.m. CDT, Monday, August 27, 2012
The Cattlemen Days Rodeo in Ashland had calf roping, barrel racing and bull riding. Among the riders was Matt Dunsmore, a Minnesota native who tried to best a bull named Orion, the same bull that bucked him off at last year's event.

ASHLAND — At Friday night's Cattlemen Days Rodeo, it was déjà vu for Matt Dunsmore. He drew the bull Orion for a second straight year.

At last year’s event, the 31-year-old professional bull rider was bucked before reaching the 8 seconds required to be judged. His ride was not scored, and he did not get paid.


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The bull lineup this year included names such as Texas Kid, Black Satin, Night Shift, Tres Ochos, Balboa and Orion. They might sound like a group of professional wrestlers but they’re much more dangerous.

Dunsmore knows exactly how dangerous bull riding is. His right pinky finger had to be reattached after a bull bucked him and stepped on it. He has had worse bull riding injuries, such as a punctured lung and six broken ribs from a similar incident.

“It’s a pure adrenaline rush,” said Glen Sapp, an event organizer from the Cedar Valley Saddle Club in Ashland. “It’s a contest between a 200-pound man and a 2,000-pound bull. And it’s not a fair fight.”

Four hours before his ride, Dunsmore wore a black baseball cap advertising smokeless tobacco. His untucked blue-and-red flannel shirt hid his 2005 Minnesota Rodeo Association Championship trophy, a belt buckle the size of a ribeye steak.

Dunsmore took the day off from his job as a chemical company sales rep to make the nearly 10-hour drive from his hometown of Elk River, Minn. He has 16 years of bull-riding experience, and his laid back attitude could come off more as a professional snowboarder than a bull rider.

“Right before I’m out there, I try not to think about (what could happen),” Dunsmore said. “I try to stay loose the way Shaun White does before he snowboards.”

Dunsmore is ranked No. 8 in the Great Lakes Circuit of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association. The top 12 go to Louisville, Ky., for the regional championship.

But Friday, Dunsmore didn't last the necessary eight seconds for a second year in a row and didn't get a score.

There are two judges in bull riding who grade both ride difficulty and how well the rider handled the bull. They consider how many times a rider displays control by digging his spurs into the bull.

According to Professional Bull Riding’s website, to determine difficulty, judges look for drop in the front end, kick in the back, and spin and direction changes. Riders are scored out of a possible 100 points, and no score is given for touching the ground, one hand coming out of the rope or the free arm touching the bull.

There’s only been one perfect score in history, according to Marilyn Knutson, a professional bull-riding timekeeper.

Knutson was the official timer for all the events at the Cattlemen Days Rodeo. She said the highest bull riding score she has ever seen was a 97.

“And that was a 97,” Knutson said. “That thing was jumping, spinning, snot spitting everywhere."

Bull riding was not the only event at the Cattlemen Days Rodeo. There was also barrel racing, bareback bronco riding, saddleback bronco riding, team roping and calf tying.

Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.

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