Check out all the thrills, spills and excitement of the Wingham Summertime Rodeo at the Wingham Showground on January 5. Sixteen year old Wingham local Ben Gallagher will be competing on the day, and his excitement and enthusiasm for his chosen sport are obvious …
Hi Ben. Tell us a bit about yourself – whereabouts in the Manning-Great Lakes area do you call home, and how old are you?
Hey, I live on a farm on the outskirts of Wingham. I am 16 years old, and I have just finished Year 10 at Wingham High School. Whenever I’m not thinking about bull riding or practicing at home with my mates, Braedyn and David, I am mostly helping my mum and dad run the farm.
What first sparked your interest in competing in rodeo?
I first found an interest in bull riding when I was 11 or so. My godfather used to ride bulls, and he would tell me stories about it and show me pictures of him riding. From there I was always the kid right up on the fence at our local Wingham Summertime Rodeo yelling out to the riders and congratulating them. I always thought to myself, “I wish that was me out there giving it a go”.
I was in Year 6, and Breadyn and I were helping dad up in the cattle yards drenching the older cows and calves. After we had finished, we thought we would give it a go riding a poddy calf. We didn’t have a rope or anything; we just sat on top of the calf and tried to ride him. From there on in, that’s all we could talk about, and it’s led us to where we are now travelling around the circuit together and having fun riding steers and bulls and just enjoying the life of a bull rider.
What events do you normally compete in?
The events I am competing in at the moment are the 14 to under 18 years steer ride; if there is an open steer ride, I enter in that as well, the junior bull ride and this year at Wingham Summertime Rodeo on 5 January 2013, I am having my first novice bull ride.
What is it about these types of events you particularly like?
The things I like about these events are just the rush and adrenaline hit you get from riding. Bull riding is not like any other sport. It takes a lot of talent and toughness, which makes it all the more fun. Having the thought that the bull you are riding could be 600 kg to 1000 kg − that just gives me a certain thrill which is hard to explain. I like that you are not competing as much against the other competitors, as looking to beat the bull to the buzzer.
Another good point about rodeo is meeting new people all the time − especially the older open bull riders. Most of them will help you out if you are willing to listen to them, which is great for us younger fellas.
How do you prepare for an event – do you practice much each week, or have a fitness training program?
Keeping fit is an everyday thing for me, because I am always doing something active like sports and so on.
With our practicing, we try and get on at least once a week if not more, if we have time. Our practice involves riding the bulls here at home and then to slow it up and fix our mistakes, Breadyn, David and I head down the road to Breadyn’s place, and he has a setup of 5 barrels that all turn and roll different ways, which increases our balance and movement, so we learn to react quicker to certain movements.
Preparing for an event is much of the fun − especially if you’re travelling to the place where you are riding at. Each town you pass, you get a little bit keener to ride your bull/steer and also catch up with your mates.
What’s the wildest or hairiest ride you’ve had to date?
The rankest bull ride I’ve had so far would definitely have to be my first junior bull I got on at Scone Rodeo. He blew out of the chute quick and just spun to the left and flung me ‘out the back door’, as they say. It was fun, but I wish I did last the 8 seconds! After he got me off, he turned around and put on a good show for the crowd, trying to give me a bit of a shove.
Who do you look up to in the rodeo world, and why?
My rodeo heroes would have to be Ben Jones, Ryan Dirteater, and a local Tamworth cowboy, Clint Glass, because of their attitudes and positive thoughts towards bull riding and the skill to ride the rank bulls. I also look up to Brendan Crawley and Jono Couling; they are always keen to have a chat and are always full of encouragement and advice for me.
What are your future aspirations for rodeo – would you like to tour the professional circuit nationally or internationally?
My short term goal in rodeo is to make the ABCRA National Finals in 2014 for the under 18 steer ride and hopefully junior bull. My long term goal is to compete in the P.B.R. Australia and America events.
You’re planning to compete at the Wingham Rodeo on January 5. What events are you planning to ride in, and how do you think you’ll go on the day?
Yeah, my home town rodeo is coming up quickly on 5 January. I am definitely excited to compete in it due to having all my mates and family there to watch and support. Hopefully we put on an outstanding show for everyone. I am competing in the under 18 steer ride on the day, and at night time I will be having my first novice bull ride. If I can make the eight each time I ride, I will be happy, but to place in any of the events at home would be a great feeling. My mates and I have been practicing on everything we can jump on; we have even been in a bit of strife lately from the teachers at school, because we’ve been swinging on chairs pretending they’re bulls and so on, but that’s just ’cause we’re keen.
Hopefully we will see you all there at the annual summertime rodeo at Wingham on 5 January 2013. Slack Round starts at 2pm and the Main Round starts at 6pm with the Grand Entry. The committee have been really busy organising a full program of rodeo events, as well as lots of attractions to keep every member of the family entertained and well fed for the day.
For further information about the Wingham Rodeo, contact Rodeo Steward Merv Mills at Cleavers Wingham on 6553 4364.
This interview was found in issue 71 of Manning Great Lakes Focus