Bull riding has been an official sport since the 1870s. The sport is performed with one hand holding onto a rope, and the other in the air. You are not permitted to touch the bull or yourself, and must stay on the bull’s back for a minimum of 8 seconds. The score is split 50/50 between the bull and the rider, how well you keep control throughout the ride, and how hard the bull bucks. “You can get a max of 100 points but that’s pretty rare,” Vincent Otto ‘23 explains. “You need a helmet, protective vest, deer skin glove — they make custom bull riding gloves — and a poly bull riding rope, spurs, that’s all that’s mandatory.”
Otto has grown up around bull riders, mainly his father, Carl Otto. “My dad, he rode buck and horses throughout his life, and I’ve been exposed to it around my family, just hearin’ about it.”
As a seven year old, Otto decided to get on the back of a cow for the first time, and has been riding ever since. “One day I just had a wild hair to start, and so we loaded up some cows at the house and I got on ‘em.” It wasn’t until he was 13 that he would ride his first bulls. “It started off pretty rocky. A lotta times hittin’ the dirt but yeah, it eventually picked up.”
Despite trials and tribulations, Otto finds things to keep him motivated. “There are some rocky times that you
think it’s not gonna get much better, but then you kinda remember your goals that you’ve set for yourself, and the promises you’ve wanted to make, so you keep striving for that.” Otto’s goals have not been without reward, “One I had this year earlier, that I achieved, was to make the High School World Finals.” The NHSR (National High School Rodeo Association) is an organization founded in the 1970s, offering scholarships and mentoring for young bull riders, “it was definitely quite the experience.” Otto remembers. Other goals of his are to make it to the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) and the Great Lake Circuit Championship.
Otto frequently posts his bull-riding experiences on his Instagram.
Q: What was your worst ride? Your best?
A: My worst one, that’s gotta be Fort Dodge, Iowa earlier this year. I got on a bull, he was a dalmatian lookin’ bull, can’t remember his name I think it was like Time Reaper or something. I got on him, and we made about 3 jumps out, and he clicked my feet out from me and I did a cartwheel over the top of him and got trampled pretty good. That was probably my worst.
My best would be Madison, Minnesota last year. I got on a bull that barns used to bring for a lot of PRCA deals, and I got out there and rode him. He was one that you’d look at him and be like “Oh no, there’s no way,” being able to look back and think I did that, that’s kinda cool.
Q: What’s your favorite part about riding?
A: Honestly just the thrill of it, the fact that it’s a sport that’s honestly so graceful but so brutal at the same time. The thrill of being able to look back and see what you accomplished.
Q: What are some emotions or thoughts you have while riding?
A: There’s always a little bit of fear there, it’s normal, it’s human nature. My mind’s set on it, almost so excited that like it makes you mad, you kinda wanna get mad, get in your own mindset ‘fore you do it, so you can almost take it like its a fight. That excitement when you get riding him “Oh, here we go.”
Q: What sort of training goes into bull-riding?
A: We get on the livestock, obviously nothing that’ll buck very hard, something to just kinda head runs for you. I have a barrel that I get on that makes the motion of a bull and my dad’ll critique me as I go.
Q: Do you have any tricks you’ve learned while bull riding?
A: If I had to give someone a tip about it, just keep your mind clear and it’s simple. It’s an easy thing to overthink, but if you can keep it simple, it’s just up and down motion 24/7.
Q: What are your plans for bull riding in the future? Are you looking to go professional?
A:This is my first year I’m 18, so I get to buy my PRCA [Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association] card which is the pro card, and hopefully this year’ll be my first year on the pro circuits. Pretty excited about that.
The Hoofprint reached out to Otto’s main bull riding coach Carl Otto for a word about Vincent Otto.
Q: How would you describe Vincent?
A: I would describe Vincent as determined, disciplined, and with a lot of grit and passion for the sport of bull riding.
Q: What qualities does Vincent have that make him a better bull-rider?
A: His ability to focus all his energy on the ride. When he is sore, or in a hang up, to stay calm and get himself out of the situation.
Q: What’s your favorite memory of Vincent?
A: When he made his first ride at nationals and seeing the satisfaction on his face that he can ride with the world’s best.
Q: What is it like being his coach/teacher?
A: Coaching Vincent is rewarding. We watch clips of his rides then go out and practice. That could be time on his drop barrel to help his driving forward with the up and down motion, or just on a stationary barrel to help position memory. He does many things such as riding horse bareback with his rope, balancing on a basketball, and the gym is a lot of core and leg work. Having 100 percent dedication from Vincent makes it easy.
Q: What do you think people could learn from Vincent?
A: Vincent’s bull riding started at 4 years old with many bumps and bruises. He never lost the heart or determination or goal of being a professional bull rider. If you want something it doesn’t come easy, be honest to yourself and respect life.
Q: Anything else to add?
A: If I was going to add anything else it would be that his heart and soul is a bull rider. He is always grateful to those who have helped him. Vincent is humble and understands the danger of the sport. He is willing to help new kids out on their bull riding career.