Producing a bull riding competition requires lots of behind the scenes logistics.
“Of course having the best bucking bulls for cowboys to get on and entertaining the spectators to the maximum are the most important to us,” contended Kris Martin of Walkin’ M Bull Company LLC at Hoyt.
“But, there’s considerably more that goes into every one of our rodeos and bull riding events than most people, even the contestants, never consider,” explained Martin Sunday evening after spending all Saturday and most of Sunday moving portable rodeo equipment to the Valley Falls Saddle Club Arena.
“With his full time job working construction, on top of taking care of our bucking bulls, supplying bulls for rodeos and organizing our own events, Kris is really busy. It’s hard for him to find any time,” clarified wife Misty Martin, co-owner of the bucking bull operations.
In addition to supplying bucking bulls for a couple dozen performances annually of Rodeo Rose Productions, owned and operated by Brent and Stella Larreau, Hershey, Neb., the Martins produce a half dozen bull riding events of their own.
“We’re getting ready for the second annual Bull Riding at Valley Falls Saturday night, Sept. 7, at 7 o’clock,” said Martin, who noted that the firm also supplies bulls for major Professional Bull Riders and other sanctioned competitions throughout the country.
But, the hard work is a labor of love, Martin admitted, and his wife of 19 years readily agreed. “Kris just lives to watch our bulls buck,” Mrs. Martin stated.
“I started riding bucking bulls in 1984 at junior and high school rodeos, and then competed hard for 22 years. I love the sport. I always have,” explained Martin, who lives on the Jackson County ranch where he was born and raised.
Winning fourth at the Kansas High School Rodeo Finals in 1986, Martin went on to compete in the United Rodeo Association, the International Professional Rodeo Association and three years in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
“I traveled all over the Midwest, Texas, New Mexico, Minnesota and all states in between. I probably won my share, but the most memorable ride was when I won the bull riding with 88 points on a bull at St. Joe, Missouri, in 1996,” Martin reflected.
Age took its toll on the cowboy bull rider, like it does everyone. “I really wanted to stay involved in the sport I loved so much. So, Misty and I bought some young bucking bull prospects and formed the Walkin’ M Bull Company LLC in 2005,” Martin said.
The bulls were grown, developed and conditioned to start “hauling down the road” to bull riding competitions in 2007. “Our business has just grown from that beginning,” Martin related.
Bucking bull prospects are purchased by the Martins as three-year-old prospects. “We are able to start working with them right away, so they’re ready to haul within a year,” Martin explained.
While owning cows and raising prospect calves is an increasingly common endeavor of bucking bull enthusiasts, Martin contended, “You have four years invested in them, let alone all of the feed and overhead, before a bull can ever go into competition. We prefer to start working with our bulls as soon as we buy them.”
Of course, selecting the bulls to purchase is a major task. “We buy prospects all over the country at special bucking bull sales. Now, many of our bulls are bought over the internet,” Martin said.
While rodeo bulls are often thought of as being very big, Martin contended, “Many of the top bulls today are of the Plummer line which are smaller, more athletic bulls that will weigh about 1,500 pounds at maturity.”
Although they’ve had larger inventories, the Martins now have 17 bulls that are hauled to rodeos and bull riding events. “That number works well for the events we’re involved with,” Martin said.
Caliber of the bulls’ bucking ability is verified by the mount-ride ratio at the recent rodeo in Circleville. “We had 16 bull riders total in the two performances with a qualified ride marking 89 points Friday night, and a second qualified ride for 92 points Saturday night. Two qualified rides out of 16 bulls out of the chute,” Martin tallied.
“It’s important to have some qualified rides at an event to keep the contestants and the spectators enthused. It’s discouraging if cowboys can’t ever get a bull ridden to the buzzer,” Martin elaborated.
Silver Bullet has been one of the elite bulls in the string, but Martin said, “It’s impossible for me to name one bull that is our best now, because there are so many outstanding bulls that can put a cowboy in the winning circle, if they’re ridden on a given day.”
With no slowdown of enthusiasm for the sport of bull riding, Martin plans to continue his bull riding productions at the pace of the past couple years, always looking for additional venues to share his endeavors.
However, the bull riding producer does have concerns about the future of the sport. “It costs so much to go down the road anymore that contestants are more inclined to stay home,” Martin noted. “I really think there isn’t the adrenalin in the younger generation of contestants either. They spend too much time watching videos instead of getting on bulls.
“Another thing is that small communities are often financially strapped with the tough economy. Businesses are being forced to close their doors. These events require entire community support to be a success,” Martin contended.
However, Valley Falls was credited for getting behind the first bull riding Martin had there last year, and Martin insisted there’s even more optimism this time.
“We’ve had great enthusiasm from all of Jefferson County and well beyond for the event Saturday night in Valley Falls. We’ll have 26 bull riders in the long go round, and five will come back for the finals,” said Martin, adding that there’ll be $1,500 added money for winning riders on top of entry fee payback. A few bulls will be leased from other owners for the competition.
“We’ll have a top professional announcer, an outstanding funnyman and two of the best bullfighters in the business,” Martin welcomed.