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Bulls offer big bucks in Steamboat

Idaho bull rider River Stephenson slides off of his bull Conner during Sunday's Rocky Mountain Bull Bash in Steamboat Springs. Hoey didn't have much luck on the night
Joel Reichenberger

— Tyler Orchard knows what a bad day of rodeo in Steamboat Springs can look like, and that’s what helped make Sunday such a good one.

The 21-year old bull rider from Baggs, Wyo. was a frequent contestant in the weekly Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo series this summer, at least until the bull he was riding at a late-June rodeo slammed him into a post, breaking his ankle and putting his season on hold.

Cowboys being tough is more than a country music cliche, however, and Orchard was back on a bull within six weeks.



“I should have taken more time off,” he said, “but I had rodeos to get to.”

Sunday, he was back in Steamboat, where he held on to win the annual PBR Rocky Mountain Bull Bash event.



He rode Thundercloud for 85 points, thrusting him into first place ahead of nearly 27 other riders and in front of hundreds of rowdy fans at Romick Rodeo Arena in Steamboat Springs.

“This means so much to win this,” he said.

Orchard and Thundercloud proved to be the award-winning combination, but the young Wyoming cowboy was among those harboring doubts before the final round started.

He’d ridden a bull named More Ugly in the first round and randomly drew Thundercloud before the finals. It wasn’t exactly good news.

Cowboys like to draw tough bulls. That’s literally half the battle of a good bull ride, as both the cowboy and the animal are awarded points. Thundercloud, however, seemed like he may be too tough. A product of Weber’s Bucking Bulls, also out of Baggs, Orchard was familiar and the bull’s owner, Shel Weber, was on hand.

“He cowboyed up,” Weber said. “That bull’s really rank, really hard to ride, and no one had ridden him yet. He took it too that bull and made a heck of a good bull ride.”

Orchard rode him to the front of the line at the pay window.

“Toward the end I was barely hanging on,” Orchard said. “He’s a real strong bull. I knew I was right there and it took a little extra try to get to the whistle.”

Orchard’s big ride actually helped earn more than one Wyoming cowboy a check.

This year’s Bull Bash introduced a team concept, lumping cowboys together based on their home states. There were two teams of four riders from Idaho, for instance, and one from Utah. There were teams from Arizona and New Mexico, a squad from Colorado riding on home dirt, and one from Wyoming, organized by Weber.

Thanks to Orchard’s big night, that’s the team that went on to win, adding to his overall haul and allowing some of his friends in on the action.

“Even the ones who got bucked off, they were trying really really hard,” Weber said. “That team deal was really good and we really thank Steamboat for putting it on.”

To top it all off, Orchard said his ankle barely even hurt Sunday.


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