Tuff E Nuff to ride? | SteamboatToday.com

Tuff E Nuff to ride?

At Guy Urie's ranch, cowboys face bulls in a test of toughness

Bull rider Caleb Brown of Craig shoots out of the chute durinng a Wednseday night Tuff E Nuff Rodeo at Guy and Linda Urie's ranch.
Tyler Arroyo

A sleepy 72-acre ranch tucked into the Elk River Valley just north of Steamboat Springs draws participants from around the Yampa Valley once a week to answer one basic question – how tough am I?

In the rural expanses of North Routt County, no animal measures one’s grit and provides the immediate answer quite like an angry bull.

At his aptly-named Tuff E Nuff Rodeo Company, Guy Urie has created a tight-knit community focused on learning to ride and fight bulls. Urie raises rodeo stock at the ranch and every Wednesday night in the summer and fall, he offers private bull riding practices, creating an impromptu rodeo arena for friends and fans.

“Everybody’s welcome here,” Urie says. “This is where everybody learns.”

As the sweltering heat of an early Wednesday in August gives way to a cool evening, the action begins around 6 p.m. when a hush runs through the crowd of arriving riders, friends and children. The gates to the arena swing open and the only sound is the buzzing of Urie’s son, Kayle, tearing around the ranch on his dirt bike to round the horses into the arena.

Someone’s riding saddle bronc tonight.

Urie tells the five riders assembled behind the chutes, putting on spurs, chaps and adjusting their bull ropes, “Let’s go outside and do our thing.”

As the crowd takes a silent knee on the arena dirt, Guy’s wife, Linda, reads a passage about God’s ability to still make miracles happen in the year 2006, and leads them in a brief prayer.

Back in the chutes, Yancy Price is the only one riding a bronc and he gets bucked early. The 26-year-old says he learned to ride bareback in high school, but after he found a saddle last year in a Craig pawn shop, he decided to start riding again and has been coming to the practices since.

After Price’s ride, the fences are brought in to shorten the field and the bulls are herded into the chutes.

Urie says he began raising stock with one bull and one calf 19 years ago. The walls of his living room are full of pictures of one his most notorious bulls, Panda. Panda was an icon at the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo and was taken to the Professional Bull Riders finals twice. Urie said the bull was ridden “nine or 10 times in 160 to 180 trips.”

Now Urie has about nine bulls that he says are fit for any rodeo, but few of the riders who show for the practices ride these “A-pen,” bulls. The other 40 or so bulls he has are safer for beginners.

“There are some bad cats in A-pen that’ll hook your eyeballs out,” Urie said.

Tall and lean at 58, Urie hasn’t ridden a bull in four years, but he can still direct his wiry energy to thread the right bulls down the chutes as the riders don their flack jackets and hockey helmets, stretching and pacing before their runs.

Hitting the ground, Urie is there with three fighters to ward the bulls back in the pen and then give the riders feedback and support.

Lane Behrman, 20, is a regular at the sessions. He started learning to ride at the practices last summer and now rides competitively in regional rodeos.

“It’s nice here because you’ve got all the time in the world to get ready,” said Lane after his ride. “Everything’s so much faster in the rodeos. You have to have your rope on the bull before he’s in the chute.”

Behrman introduced his friend Caleb Brown to riding and now the two make the trip from Craig every Wednesday.

“The first time’s the worst. Everything’s just a blur,” said Brown, who now has 18 rides under his belt. “It’s a rush like no other.”

Shawn Turner, 17, is one of the fearless rising talents who has been coming from Walden to train with Urie for the last eight years.

“He’s taught me everything I know,” said a polite Turner, proud to say he’s now ranked fourth in the Rocky Mountain Junior Bull Riding Association standings.

Others turnout every week because of the strong bonds forged in the arena.

“All of us up here are like family. If one of them gets hurt, I’d beat myself up,” said Zach Reedy, 24, who met Urie “back when he was bucking in the Hayden Fairgrounds.” Reedy comes to the practices in hopes of becoming the next world champion bull fighter.

While riders pack up their gear and get final pointers from Urie, a blood-orange sunset lights up the north side of Sleeping Giant and marks the silhouettes of horses on the horizon.

“That’s why we built this place – training people to fight, training people to ride and mixing in a little of the good lord,” Urie says. “There’s a lot of other buckers around, but there’s no booze here, no language.

“It’s a positive deal, if you can give kids two or three hours a night one day a week, you can show them another way to look at things.”

– To reach Dave Shively, call 846-1129 or e-mail dshively@steamboatpilot.com

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