By LINDSEY KING
David Crockett High School student Dustin Douglas earned a new belt buckle at the Southern Rough Stock Association’s Championship Rodeo Finals in December. At the event, he was named Junior Bull Riding Champion.
“I like the sport of it,” Douglas said. “Riding for the eight seconds is my favorite part.”
To qualify for the SRSA Finals, 14-year-old Douglas competed in ten rodeos in 2017.
On top of a bucking bull with a crowd and his family cheering and snapping photos, he ignores the distractions until his eight seconds are over.
“I just wait to hear the buzzer go off,” Douglas said. “I focus on riding and block everything else out.”
While bull riding comes with risks, riders wear equipment that can help a rider stay balanced and prevent injuries.
“There’s a helmet and a vest,” Douglas said. “Some people say the chaps help the protection of the legs. And there are spurs.”
Before he ever got on a bull, though, Douglas attended horse riding camp at WF Stables in Jonesborough when he was 7 years old.
Later, Douglas trained his own horse, named Hooey, and they competed in barrel racing as part of the International Barrel Racing Association.
Douglas notes that bull riding requires him to focus on his own movements, but barrel racing is more about controlling the movement of the horse.
“In bull riding you have to focus on your legs and make sure they’re in the bull and focus on your free arm to make sure it’s moving the proper way,” Douglas said. “In barrel racing you just have to control the horse and make sure it’s turning on the barrel right and maintain speed.”
Now, he’s been riding bulls for more than four years. He works at WF Stables, where he helps train horses and teach new riders the ropes.
“When I first started, I got nervous, but not now,” Douglas said, “Bull riding is fun.”
Douglas has attended two bull riding clinics to hone his skills, and one of his mentors in the sport is Gary Leffew, who was the 1970 bull riding world champion.
“He taught me,” Douglas said about Leffew. “Gary helped me a lot. He was in some of the big rodeos, and he was a good rider. In the movie ‘8 Seconds,’ he taught (Luke Perry), who played Lane Frost, how to ride and all that.”
So far, he has traveled as far as Oklahoma to compete.
“Rodeos are different in every state,” said Douglas. “Down there in Oklahoma there was a bigger arena and a lot more people.”
When he’s not competing at the rodeo, he enjoys watching roping, in which either a single horse rider or a team of riders catch a calf or steer using a rope.
“I can sit back and watch roping,” said Douglas. “There’s a lot of them and it’s fun to watch. It’s fast-paced.”
Although he notes that not many students at his school have chosen to take up bull riding, the junior bull riding community is strong and close. Douglas recounts that they always help each other prepare to ride and that they cheer each other on.
“When my friends are out there, I’m just hoping that they make eight seconds,” Douglas said.
Up next for Douglas is a trip to Las Vegas to compete in the Junior National Finals Rodeo. While some people might be distracted by the allure of a distant city, he is on a mission.
“I’m just looking forward to the rodeo,” said Douglas.