Cinch bull rider is excited to be back in action after two years of injuries
It’s been a long two years for bull rider Garrett Smith.
He was well on his way to a fourth National Finals Rodeo qualification in five years, and a broken arm ended his run in July 2020.
No worries. Bones heal, and Smith had his sights set on being back at the top of his game again last year. He was hoping his one-year hiatus was a fluke, and the 2020 campaign was fraught with rodeo cancelations and other issues involving the COVID 19 pandemic. He had hoped for better.
“On July 1st, I broke my right foot in about nine spots,” he said of last year’s injury. “This year, we made it past July, so we’re doing good.”
He’s doing better than good. The Cinch cowboy has moved into the top five in the world standings, thanks in large part to a hot summer run that included two Xtreme Bulls victories and other success in the stand-alone bull riding events.
As of Aug. 8, he had accumulated more than $117,000, with $48,000 of that coming at Xtreme Bulls events. He won X Bulls titles in Reno, Nevada, in June, then two weeks later he captured the title in Cody, Wyoming. He also finished second in Lovington, New Mexico, and has maintained his status among the very best in the game this season.
“I’m finally feeling healthy,” said Smith, 27, of Rexburg, Idaho. “The last few years have been a non-stop roller coaster, and not a fun one.”
The injury bug started before the 2020 season. After two straight trips to the NFR, he was on his way to a third straight when he suffered a fractured pelvis in late-August 2018. He was out of action and didn’t return for a long time. When he did, he went back to work and earned his third NFR bid in 2019.
Being hurt and riding when hurt aren’t the same as trying to compete when injured. Broken bones need time to mend, and the pelvis injury took more time than most. When one’s job is to maintain control atop a 1,600-pound, bucking and spinning bull, one’s pelvis needs to be in perfect shape.
The roller coaster has been trending upward in 2022, and he’s excited about it. With less than two months remaining in the regular season, he has some typical bumps and bruises that come with riding bucking bovines and sitting in a vehicle for many all-night drives.
Born into a rodeo family, Smith is an all-around cowboy. He’s wrestled steers and roped and ridden just about anything he could. He first competed at The American in 2015 as a bulldogger, just three months removed from hazing for his big brother during Wyatt’s only trip to the NFR.
During his initial qualification to the 2016 NFR, Garrett Smith won the 10th round and finished the year fifth in the bull riding world standings. A year later, he was the reserve world champion to Sage Kimzey, now a seven-time titlist.
In an extremely competitive 2019 season, Smith won the second round of the NFR and placed on another night but finished 10th in the final standings. He’s back and hoping to capitalize on everything that’s been working his way through this season.
He picked up his first victory of the season last November – the ProRodeo regular season runs from Oct. 1, 2021-Sept. 30, 2022 – while competing at the Las Vegas (Nevada) Days, then followed that with the crown in March at Queen Creek, Arizona.
He won in Guymon, Oklahoma, in May and added Mountain Home, Idaho, and the Reno X Bulls in June and finally the Cody X Bulls in July.
“Momentum is very important in bull riding,” Smith said. “Once you can get that rolling, sometimes you feel pretty unstoppable. You’ve got to ride the high as long as you can, because the game is like a roller coaster.
“It feels awesome to be back. It gives you way more confidence. When you have a bad streak, it takes only one bull to turn it all around.”
Still, he’s earned a lot of money over the last nine months. In rodeo, money not only pays the bills and covers expenses, but dollars equal championship points. In his case, the bull rider with the most earnings at the end of the NFR will be crowned world champion. Right now, he’s in a chase for five-time world champion Stetson Wright, who owns the last three all-around gold buckles, the 2020 bull riding title and the 2021 bronc riding crown.
Smith is closing in on his fourth trip to the NFR, and that’s exciting, but he’s not resting. He’ll keep chasing every dollar and every title he can, and he’s going to enjoy the final few weeks of the 2022 campaign, especially with so many rodeos going in in the Northwest and close to his home.
“I don’t think you ever feel too comfortable, but we’re always still pushing and going,” he said. “I feel that if you let off the gas at all, that’s when stuff’s going to start to go bad.
“It’s way nicer when the rodeos are out here. I’ve always loved the end-of-the-year rodeoing; that’s when it’s best for me. I feel this is the best part of the year when it gets extremely fun for all of us up here.”