Fortenberry not afraid to put body at risk on bulls at Rimrock Rodeo

Montana Marcus slides to the side as he tries to hold on for the last few seconds of his ride on the bull Junior during the first round of the bull riding competition at Tuesday’s Rimrock Rodeo.

It’s hard to say if Jesse Fortenberry’s opponents ever take pity on him.

Because if one happens to force Fortenberry to break his ankle, blow his shoulder or split his liver — then so be it.

But like most bull riders, Fortenberry accepts this and keeps going forward in a sport thats in his blood.

“I really love this sport,” Fortenberry said. “You can get on the same bull 10 different times and it’s going to be 10 different rides. You can’t predict how he’s going to buck.”

The 18-year-old Fortenberry was one of about 200 participants in Tuesday’s Fruita Rimrock Rodeo. While Fortenberry does bull riding, the rodeo also has calf roping, team roping, ribbon roping, breakaway roping, bareback riding, barrel racing and bronco riding.

Fortenberry is a Whitewater resident who’s been riding bulls for nine years.

“When I was younger, I saw it on TV, and I always wanted to do it,” Fortenberry said.

“My first ride was over before it started. It was fast.”

Fortenberry has come a long way from the first ride, and said now eight seconds feels slow to him.

“Each jump feels like a minute between them,” Fortenberry said. “I have time to think, and I can make each move when I need to.”

With an bull weighing more than a ton attempting to throw him in every direction, Fortenberry said the key to being successful is muscle control.

“I have to consider each part of my body,” Fortenberry said. “Any individual piece will rock me off if I get out of place, so I try to keep my feet in the right spot and my free arm up.”

Fortenberry said he travels to four or five rodeos each week, and enjoys having the Rimrock Rodeo close to home. After all, he said he spends anywhere from $4,000 to $5,000 each week traveling to events and paying for entry fees. While success on the bull helps Fortenberry win some money back, the sport is expensive to pursue.

“It’s nice to have these close-to-home rodeos because it cuts down on cost a little bit,” Fortenberry said. “Plus you always meet new people, and can get into traveling groups for the rodeos farther from home.”

Having a local rodeo close to home is partly because of the efforts of Bret Tonozzi, one of the organizers. A 35-year rodeo veteran, Tonozzi helps oversee the rodeo and provides bulls. He said one of his favorite parts of the Rimrock Rodeo is the way the community supports it.

“It’s fun for everyone, and the community gets behind this,” Tonozzi said. “I think it has a huge impact on the town. I see trailers sitting at City Market getting stuff, and you see them at McDonalds after the rodeo.”

Tonozzi said there is a good following at every rodeo but bull riding — which opens and closes the event — draws much of the crowd’s interest.

“When there’s a chance someone can get killed every time the gate gets open, it’s exciting for the fans,” Tonozzi said. “And these bulls enjoy bucking.”

The rodeo runs through August and begins every Tuesday at 7 p.m.


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