KENNEWICK, Wash. – It’s been five years since Toby Inman looked into the eyes of a bull.
He returns to competition this Friday for the Bullfighters Only tour event that will take place in conjunction with the Benton County Fair and Rodeo in Kennewick.
“I don’t know if it’s been retirement (from bullfighting) or if it’s just been a break,” said Inman, 33, of Davis Junction, Ill. “I left because of the economy and for other personal reasons. When you’re trying to juggle your own business and fighting bulls, too, it’s just pretty difficult.”
Inman owns Toby’s Tree Service in his hometown, so juggling that with a life in rodeo oftentimes proved difficult. That’s why he’s been away from the game so many years. But he knows the game well.
That’s why he’s in the field in Kennewick.
“It’s been mind-blowing,” Inman said of the experience. “I got the call last week. It wasn’t really planned. I’m still wrapping my head around it.”
He will serve as a replacement for Chuck Swisher, who suffered a season-ending knee injury a week and a half ago. He’s more than capable.
In 2011 when he opted for the break from bullfighting, Inman was considered one of the best in the game. Now he will test his skills in a three-man, winner-take-all bullfight inside Horse Heaven Arena – he will be joined by Zach Call and Justin Josey, the latter of whom is 12th in the BFO standings.
The return to freestyle bullfighting is in conjunction with the sport’s rise in awareness, thanks to Bullfighters Only, which has helped propel the sport into the mainstream. Each bout lasts between 40 and 60 seconds.
With scores based on a 100-point scale, men can earn up to 50 points per fight based on their ability to exhibit control and style while maneuvering around or over an animal; a bull can earn up to 50 points based on its quickness, aggression and willingness to stay with the bullfighter.
It’s a test of talent, mental awareness and the ability to read what a bull is about to do. Is Inman concerned about his stamina?
“I cut trees for a living, so I’m in more shape than most people,” he said. “I figure I’ve got to know-how to keep the bull close to me so I don’t have to exert too much energy. That’s the plan, anyway.”
Inman has shied away from the game he loves for many reasons, the biggest of which is handling his tree business at home. He has clients and employees that need his attention. Still he’s excited to see what he can do in Kennewick.
“When you have the personality of a racecar driver or a fighter or people that jump out of airplanes, it’s a mentality of ‘Why not?’ ” he said.
That mentality served Inman well in the past. There’s no reason it shouldn’t benefit him this weekend in Kennewick.