Real Western > Rodeo > Japanese Rodeo Cowboys > Jin'ichiro Shibahara

Chasing The Dream

Written by Jin'ichiro Shibahara

November 10, 2007 - Gilbert, AZ: First Ride

Utah wasnft as cold as I had expected it to be.  Though I had only just returned, I had already entered an upcoming event and was too busy getting ready for it to relax much.  The people who take care of me here had looked after my car while I was in Japan, and told me all I had to do was replace the right side headlight and left side mirror and it was good to go (not bad for a Prelude on the verge of being classified a classic).  Registration had been taken care of too, so all I had to do was switch it over to my name and get some insurance, and I was heading south come the 9th of November.

Every time I get hurt, there is that gfirst rideh after recovering.  It took me half the year to get back in action this time around.  To say I wasnft nervous would be lying, but I had trained hard for this day and felt prepared.  Arizona is located just south of Utah, with the ggreat crevice,h the Grand Canyon at the border.  From Salt Lake City I headed down the familiar I-15 to Las Vegas, circumventing the great canyon into Nevada before entering Arizona.  On the way I drove by the huge Hoover Dam and had to stop my car a bit to stare at the mysterious site the behemoth cast in the dark.  Back on the road and heading Southeast, I grabbed what shut-eye I could at a truck stop in Kingsman, then skirted Phoenix into Gilbert the next morning.  Gilbert is basically a suburb of Phoenix, and gives off a rich air, what with itfs high-priced houses and gourmet supermarkets.  The deli section of the market had a female sushi-chef making and  serving sushi to customers sitting at the bar.  For a moment I wasnft sure if I was really in Arizona, but once I thought about the fact that the city near-by had a franchise for each of the four major sporting events, making it a significant metropolis, it started to make sense.

The rodeo grounds are located on the edge of town and it took me a while to find the place.  The event I had entered was a PRCA Xtreme Bulls event, similar to those recently broadcast on Japanese TV, and featured only bull riding.  The PRCA has so many tours and circuits that to try and explain them all would take too long, so youfll have to excuse me for sparing the details.  The Xtreme Bulls Tour is a bull riding only tour that the PRCA set up to compete against the PBR and is officially called the Dodge Xtreme Bulls Tour.  The tour events broadcast in Japan were part of the top level tour known as Division 1, which are also regularly broadcast in the US on the sports network ESPN.  The event I would be riding in is part of Division 2, the lower rung of the tour.  This is not to say the bulls at these events are any less caliber, and the prize money is good too.  At any given rodeo, the stock draw is done a few days prior to the event, but on the Xtreme Bulls Tour the draw is only announced to the riders 90 minutes before the start of the event.  So, of course I had no idea which bull Ifd be riding until I got there.  But what I did know is gArizonah meant Salt River Rodeo Company would be the stock contractor.  I had consistently drawn their stock the previous year and during the spring of this year and was never disappointed.  Salt River wasnft the only stock contractor for the event though; Western Rodeo Company was another of the multiple contractors.  Itfs not uncommon for Western Rodeo to work with Salt River in contracting a show.  Once I finished the entry process at the office, I went back behind the chutes to start getting ready.  It was still a little early, but I decided to rub some rosin in to my rope anyway; I hadnft been on a bull in six months, my rope was pretty slick and I figured it would take me longer than usual to get it nice and sticky.

The event kicked off at seven, so just before six I walked back to the office to check out the draw.  I had drawn #32 Captain Kirk of Western Rodeo, so I went back to the pens to get a look at him.  There were over 50 bulls there, so it took me a while to find him.  When I did, my first impression was gDamn, hefs huge!h  Close to 2000 pounds, with big, long horns to boot.  Oh well, at least Ifll recognize him in the chutes right awayc

I worked up a sweat after that with a long, careful regimen of dynamic stretching.  The stretching also acts as my worm-up, so itfs something I always do before a ride.  My name was in the first section, so I would be riding shortly after the opening ceremony in which at this event, each rider got introduced one by one.  As I was getting ready, a guy by the name of Dain whom Ifd met at a PBR event in Sturgis, South Dakota, came up and struck up a conversation.  It was good to see him again.  With that same olf shaven head, he was talking about some chick he had met back in Sturgis.  6:45 rolled around and the chute-boss came by to tell everyone to put on their chaps for the opening ceremony.  Judd Mortensen, a seasoned bull rider who has been to the PBR World Finals, was the chute-boss for this particular event.  I had ridden with Judd in some PBR events in Idaho and California, and it just goes to show you never know who youfll run into on the rodeo road.  As I was making preparations as directed, Captain Kirk was loaded into a left-side delivery chute.  He seemed even bigger now that he was in the chute.  I stepped up, wrapped my rope around him, and stepped back again.  The opening ceremony proceeded as planned, and the event got underway.

Movie of Jin's bullriding Low qaulity (MWV 714KB)

High Qaulity (MWV 4.83MB)

I had given a digital camera by my sponsor, Real Western that I had carried with me this time.  So I asked another cowboy behind the chutes to film my ride with it.  In time my turn came; I climbed into the chute and wrapped the rope around my hand.  While waiting outside of the chute, my lips kept going dry, and I was continuously downing water, but perhaps it was the situation, but once in the chute, I felt unusually calm.  As to the ride it self, ea picture is worth a thousand wordsf so it may be better if you just watched it.

I think I talked before about a movement bulls make called gturn backsh and what this bull did was precisely that.  If you watch the footage, I think you will notice that at one point his head is facing left, yet the next moment following his landing after a jump, he has changed directions 180 degrees and is facing right.  When you consider the fact that he weighed close to 2000 ponds, yet was able to react immediately to the opening of the gate, be this agile and move so quick, it is simply astonishing.  Following the landing, he immediately went into a right-hand spin; fully aware that if he can smash a rider against the fence the rider will come off, he intentionally spins close to the fence.  These bulls are that smart.  His weight keeps him from spinning fast, but he kicks hard and high.  You can tell he is kicking high by comparing how high he is kicking to the fence; keep in mind the top of these fences are six feet off the ground.  All I had only kept me on his back about 5 seconds.  When I talked to one of the judges after the show, he said the bull had scored 41 points on that out.

As for my own performance, I was able to keep my upper body well positioned.  I used a motion known as gwiping your handh where you bend your right arm 90 degrees, bringing it forward as the bull jumps, then as he lands, pull it back and 45 degrees down to the right until the arm is parallel with your shoulder again.  You would use this motion to stay aboard a right spinning bull like Captain Kirk if you ride with your left hand.  The idea is to stop your arm as it becomes parallel with your shoulder again, but the enormous Gfs pulling me to the outside (in this case to the left) also pulled my right arm back past my shoulder, twisting my torso, which in turn lifted my right buttocks off the bullfs back, and down I fell.  This was on about the fourth jump and you can see me straiten out my right arm in an attempt to regain my balance (to no availc)  I had kept my legs loose and attempted to keep them straight under me.  You can even see me spurring a bit with my left leg, but my rear gets pulled up by my right arm going back too far, which then pulled my right foot out.  My head comes up around this time too.  The ride felt good though.  I felt in control for a fair part of it.  A part which lasted but five secondsc

After having come off the bull, I crawled as fast as I could on all fours and found my self at Juddfs feet.  gYoufre alright!h he shouted, then, gMan!!  Every time I see you, you get better!!h he continued as helped me to my feet.  Ifd have to agree; if this was me two years ago, I wouldfve flown off in two seconds or less.

40 riders had entered the event, with 13 of them riding for 8 seconds in the preliminary round (called the gLong Goh in rodeo).  Only 12 could move on to the final round, or, gShort Go.h  Dain made it through the Long Go sitting in second place, but came of his bull short of the whistle in the Short Go.  I packed up my gear as the event wrapped up, and as I walked out of the arena I ran into Judd again.  With a firm grip he shook my hand and said, gKeep riding man!h  I hear those same encouraging words every time I run into a bull rider I know in the US or Canada, and they are what keeps me going.

The arena was coming to life again, this time in the form of an after party.  The scene of spectators and riders sharing drinks together is a familiar one in the world of rodeo and bull riding.  But, no rest for the weary; a couple other riders and I have to ride in Southern California the next day.  Some had already put the arena behind.  Wefre heading for Brawly; about 200 miles West.

The sun shining through the car window had given me a tan.  The temperature rose to over 85 during the day, but the once the sun fell, it was surprisingly cool.  Getting back on the highway, my first visit to Arizona quickly came to an end.

Jinfichiro Shibahara

Real Western
Copyright © 2007 Real Western All Rights Reserved.
Unauthorized Reproduction and Copying Prohibited