'I like fighting bigger bulls'

17-year-old rides to 80 points to win Gallup Lion's Club Rodeo ride-off

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

CHURCH ROCK, N.M., June 21, 2012

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(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)

Bull rider Ty Toadlena's friends cheer him on Saturday night at the 64th Annual Lions Club Rodeo at Red Rock Park in Church Rock, N.M. Toadlena got a score of 80 points

I t's time to get excited for Ty Toadlena.

The 17-year-old prospect answered two very important questions about his game at last week's 64th Annual Gallup Lions Club Rodeo.

For starters, he can handle himself against some of the top-notch bull riders.

But a new revelation about his ability was revealed during the $1,500 ride-off last Saturday night.

"I drew a really rank bull and after one jump he almost took me off my heels," he said.

Actually he was inches from being thrown off but he dug himself out of that hole and rode Copper Whack for another six seconds.

"I thought I was off," he said. "But I lifted my rope so hard that I came back on top. That bull was so nice that he kept bringing it and for a moment he had me, but I just had to bear down and I got my job done."

Initially, though, he got a thumbs down from one rodeo judge and Toadlena began to ask questions. That official told the Vanderwagon, N.M., cowboy that his stopwatch malfunctioned and he based his decision on the horn.

The other judge, however, ruled that he did make the eight-second ride. But while he was tallying up his score the ornery bull took a cheap shot and hurled the judge eight feet above the ground.

"He was doing his job, but unfortunately he got hit," Toadlena said of the judge who was later treated at a local hospital.

Incidentally, it was that rodeo judge who has his stopwatch working and after he was helped off the arena floor Toadlena was awarded an 80-point ride.

"The whole crowd was behind me and I knew I made the ride," he said.

He had to wait for the other two bull riders to complete their rides then was awarded the $1,500 prize after veteran rider Spud Jones and newcomer Wade Silversmith were both bucked off.

"This is one of the best feelings that I have," Toadlena said. "I mean, this is against some of the best bull riders in the open."

Before that most people associated him as a junior bull-riding champion, but he wants to change that.

"Everybody knows me by being good at junior bulls," he said. "But I'm getting older and I like fighting against these bigger bulls."

Next month, Toadlena will be competing at the National High School Finals Rodeo as he finished second in the year-end standings for the state of Arizona. The finals will be held at the Sweetwater Events Center in Rock Springs, Wyo., July 15 to 21.

"I'm looking forward to competing," the soon-to-be Gallup High senior said.

As for why he chose Arizona over New Mexico, Toadlena said he got a late start to the high school rodeo season and felt that he couldn't catch the top four guys in New Mexico.

"I didn't start until the spring and it was impossible for me to get qualified in New Mexico," Toadlena said. "That's why I went with Arizona and I almost caught the number one guy."

For the season, he competed in seven rodeos and rode four of his bulls and finished the season with 38 points, two points shy of catching Brandon McCassie, a Phoenix cowboy.

"My main goal was to try to make nationals," Toadlena said. "But when it came down to the finals I had a chance to win it, but that was when I went into a slump."

Early in his career, he qualified for the Wrangler Junior High Finals in 2009 and finished in the top 20 and made the short round. He intends to duplicate that feat again at this year's high school finals.

"I had a real good time during the junior high finals," he said. "Now that I'm going into the high school finals I want to try my best to win the whole deal."

Of course, he has gained a lot more than just the $1,500 he earned during the ride-off.

For starters, he rode himself out of a slump.

But, more importantly, he has all the confidence in the world that he can ride anything that has hair on it.

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