Bull bash bucks back in Steamboat Sunday | SteamboatToday.com

Bull bash bucks back in Steamboat Sunday

It's not like it used to be, Judd Mortensen said.

Mortensen competed in a type of golden age in the bull riding world, but now, 15 years removed from his retirement, he said there are fewer cowboys competing.

"It's plateaued as far as money, as far as exposure, as far as cowboys," he said.

The difference becomes even more pronounced this time of year. The ranks of cowboys who did start the season have been thinned by injuries in some cases and a lack of success in others. The drive for points to qualify for the big, end-of-season championship rodeos has left some cowboys behind.

So, what's a promoter of a Labor Day weekend professional bull riding event to do?

Mortensen, putting on Sunday's Rocky Mountain Bull Bash at Romick Rodeo Arena in downtown Steamboat Springs, got creative two years ago, adding some serious quirks to the typical bull riding event format.

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Now, he said, those changes continue to pay off, and he's anticipating a busy evening of bucking bulls Sunday, one filled out with cowboys.

Mortensen introduced a team format to his Steamboat bull riding event two years ago, dividing riders by state. This year, there will again be teams from Wyoming, New Mexico, Idaho and, of course, Colorado.

Each team will have four riders, two of whom must be younger than 18. The other two can be of any experience, including — and they will — cowboys with multiple trips to the Professional Bull Riding World Finals.

"The competitors really eat it up," Mortensen said. "Usually, bull riding is a solo event. You're on your own. But this makes the guys gel together."

Thanks to that team element, riders will be competing with several goals in mind.

There will be 40 of them, and the first goal is to get to the short round, where 16 more bulls await. Eight of those will go to the top riders from the long round. The other eight, however, will go to the teams, one for each. Each team can select the rider it wants for each animal, so they'll be able to match a rider with certain traits with a bull that plays to him.

"We try to create bull rides," Mortensen said.

The gates at the arena open at 3 p.m., and the bulls will start bucking at 5. Tickets are available online at steamboat.com, the Steamboat Springs Visitor Center or F.M. Light & Sons. They cost $25 for general admission or $35 for reserved covered seating.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9.

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