Enjoying the ride

Collbran's Gately decides bull riding will be his career

Tucker Gately gets himself ready to ride a bull during a recent competition in Collbran. After riding in the National Junior High Finals Rodeo this month, the Plateau Valley School eighth-grader’s mindset has gone from riding bulls to be part of the guys to making a career out of holding on for eight seconds.



From the beginning, Kathi Norell was destined for rodeo.

There was really no avoiding it. With a family full of rodeo competitors from her team-roping father to her quarter-horse-breeding grandfather, it was in her blood.

But the drive to succeed is all hers.

The 13-year-old, who attends West Middle School in Grand Junction, and her horse, Gracie, made the trip to Iowa for the National Junior High Finals Rodeo at the end of June. Norell said she hit a barrel on each of her attempts at nationals, but the experience was worth it.

“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “Now, I’ll be ready for next year.”

To prepare, Norell will continue her rigorous training routine. She rides at least six days a week and trains on different horses three or four days a week.

Norell and Gracie have an unbreakable bond, she said. The two were born in the same year, six months apart. Norell said Gracie is her greatest strength as a barrel racer.

“A good bond is important. They won’t run for you if they don’t trust you,” she said.

Gracie was trained by Norell’s cousin and biggest barrel racing influence, Cody Denton.

Every time Norell gets ready for a barrel race, the advice Denton gave her when she first started racing plays over and over in her head.

“Cody always told me, ‘Trust yourself, trust your horse, and ride her like you stole her,’ ” she said with a smile.

Three years ago, Tucker Gately started bull riding because everyone around him was doing it.

His friends and his cousin, Casey Farrington, were all into the sport, so he said in order to be “part of the gang,” he gave it a shot.

Gately, an eighth-grader at Plateau Valley School in Collbran, recently took his talents to the National Junior High Finals Rodeo in Des Moines, Iowa, along with two other rodeo competitors from the area, Kathi Norell of Grand Junction and Kaden Ehart of Collbran.

Although Gately wasn’t successful on either of his rides at nationals, the new experience strengthened his desire to compete in the sport. During the past few years, bull riding has gone from something to do with the guys to something to do for life.

Last year, Gately competed in the state finals rodeo, riding two bulls and getting bucked off prior to completing the required eight-second ride. But he came close, and that taste of near success made Gately realize this wasn’t just a hobby anymore.

“After that I really figured out, ‘You know, this ain’t just looking cool, it’s fun.’ I mean, when you buck off one and it’s (a really short ride), you really don’t think much of it, but when you really ride one eight seconds, it feels like forever,” he said. “It’s probably just the greatest feeling ever, and it makes you think, ‘This is fun, and I just never really want to give this up.’ “

Now, Gately does whatever he can to improve as a bull rider, whether it’s lifting weights after school or training with his cousin on a drop barrel.

Farrington, a bull rider himself who works on an oil rig in South Dakota, trains with Gately every time he comes home. Gately said Farrington is his biggest influence.

“He’s just always helping me out, and he’s always kind of giving me heck about it. It just pushes me to make me greater,” Gately said. “You know, if we are at home not doing anything, someone somewhere else is training, so we need to be riding the drop barrel, too.”

Gately plans to pursue bull riding as a career after high school, traveling the country to every possible rodeo. Gately said he is taking all of the necessary steps to achieve that goal, and no matter the stage, he never gets fazed.

“A lot of people ask if you get nervous, and really I get pretty nervous before I get on a bull, but once I get on there I just go blank, and it all turns into muscle memory,” he said.

As Gately looks toward the future, his family is doing whatever it can to keep his dream alive.

His mother, Tanya Gately, said the cost of travel for rodeo is expensive. Tucker’s sister, Landyn Croy, does barrel racing and pole bending, so the family has to haul a horse trailer with them to rodeos. In order to cut down on the cost, the trailer doubles as a place to sleep, so they don’t have to pay for a hotel.

Given her son’s commitment to the sport, Tanya Gately said she doesn’t mind the extensive travel and expensive cost.

“He works really hard,” she said. “I’m just happy that if he’s going to do it, he’s going to give it his all.”


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