Can-do attitude from young bull rider

Can-do attitude from young bull rider

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Courtney Reinke competing at the Ashley Black Memorial Rodeo, Waroona in 2018. Picture: Shazza J Photography.

Courtney Reinke competing at the Ashley Black Memorial Rodeo, Waroona in 2018. Picture: Shazza J Photography.

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"I enjoyed making history, that was my biggest thing."

Aa

AS the old saying goes 'grab the bull by its horns'.

And for Courtney Reinke, 19, it's not just a life motto, it is something she did quite literally at the ripe age of 13.

Within two years the Jurien Bay teenager clinched the title of Australia's number one female steer rider and made history as the first ever female to compete in the Australian Bushmen's Campdraft and Rodeo Association (ABCRA) Junior National Finals Rodeo (NFR) at Tamworth, New South Wales.

Not bad, considering Ms Reinke charged her way into the male-dominated sport of bull riding with zero experience.

"I enjoyed making history, that was my biggest thing," Ms Reinke said.

"And I made it four times - I wish I could go back to that."

Ms Reinke is an authentic, down-to-earth country girl with a colourful vocabulary, a lot of guts and a seriously strong can-do attitude.

She was born, raised and still lives on her parent's 5665 hectare Wheatbelt property with three kelpies, 90 bucking bulls, 130 cows and heifers and 28 horses.

When told she had an impressive amount of drive and passion at such a young age, she likened her outlook on life to that of the famous late 'Crocodile Hunter' Steve Irwin.

"There's stuff that keeps you awake at night," she said.

"I bloody feel like Steve Irwin sometimes, so keen and so motivated to get things done.

"I want more, I always want more and I want to be better within myself."

While Ms Reinke was quick to earn a reputation as one of the most talented junior bull riders in the country, her family wasn't always involved in the sport.

 Unlike with horses, Ms Reinke did not grow up with bull riding. Picture: Sharni Evans Art and Photography.

Unlike with horses, Ms Reinke did not grow up with bull riding. Picture: Sharni Evans Art and Photography.

It wasn't in her blood and unlike with horses, she didn't grow up with it.

In fact, it took two years to convince her dad to buy a bull - or four - to practice on.

"We had mates involved and mum basically said. 'there's a rodeo coming up, do you want to enter it?" she said.

"She was listing off all the events, sort of joked about doing the steer ride and I said 'Yeah I'll give it a go'.

"So I had no practice and I went straight out, all guns blazing.

"That's basically how most people start out, if you're not really in the rodeo scene and you aren't around it.

"It either runs in the family or you have friends who ride competitively then obviously you start off properly.

"Most of us idiots don't really start off the right way."

Within two seconds, she was slammed to the ground and ate a face full of dirt.

However Ms Reinke picked herself up, dusted herself off and went on to compete at the "next rodeo and the one after that" and she kept going until she made finals.

"Basically the first ride, leading up to it I was sh.. scared, if you can abbreviate that in any other way than the sh.. part, be my guest," she said.

 In her first ever bull riding competition, Ms Reinke said she only lasted two seconds on a bucking bull. Picture: Emily Trainor

In her first ever bull riding competition, Ms Reinke said she only lasted two seconds on a bucking bull. Picture: Emily Trainor

"I was petrified.

"Also I didn't realise you needed a mouth guard and I was borrowing every Tom, Dick and Harry's rodeo gear.

"The next couple of shows afterwards I started wearing a mouthguard."

Funnily enough it wasn't riding up to 600 kilogram bulls, which was the biggest challenge in her early days of riding.

It was wearing a mouth guard.

She said as soon as she put the protective gear in her mouth, she constantly felt like she was going to vomit.

"I was on the back of the steer and I would just gag because of the mouthguard," she said.

"I soon got used to it though, I'd walk around the house with the mouthguard in to get my mouth used to it.

"It was either that or risk losing all my teeth I guess."

Ms Reinke has and still does compete with horses, which she said she feared more than bull riding.

Ms Reinke has and still does compete with horses, which she said she feared more than bull riding.

The fear of wearing a mouth guard soon left Ms Reinke and so too did the feeling of being "sh.. scared."

She said she became so focused on what she was doing, she forgot she was at high risk of injuring herself.

"Everything sort of goes numb and you're just listening to the people around you.

"When you first start out riding it is so quick, it is just like bang and you're done.

"But when you have been riding for a little bit, everything is like riding a horse, you make each manoeuvre to what the bull does and you sort of meet everything."

And unlike most bull riders it is not the adrenaline that she enjoys most about the sport.

It is "mentally knowing she can get past something so great".

"Just knowing I have achieved something great and it is not something people can do in their everyday life," she said.

Ms Reinke first competed in 2016 and a year later she ended up placing at the ABCRA NFR when she received sixth place in the first round, second place in the second round and fifth as an overall average.

She prides herself on the fact she was riding against the top 15 boy bull riders in Australia.

"NSW, those riders are insane, they are so, so good," she said.

"They go to about four rodeos, maybe more in one weekend.

"I was only a couple of years into the game and I never expected to get to that stage."

Ms Reinke said at the start the boys thought she was just competing for "s..ts and gigs, a mess around and to tick something off the bucket list".

Ms Reinke said her proudest achievement was making history and she wished she could do it all over again.

Ms Reinke said her proudest achievement was making history and she wished she could do it all over again.

But they soon realised it meant something more than that to her and she was serious.

"I started holding more practices and I gained a bit more respect from the WA boys through that because I had something to offer them.

"They realised I was serious and I wanted to do it properly.

"Then when I went to NSW it started all over again.

"The boys thought I was nothing and maybe I wasn't anything, because technically I was just this iddy, biddy little girl from WA.

"But the year I placed in the national finals they sort of went 'Oh OK she's serious about it.'"

Watching from the sideline, an eight-second bull ride would probably seem like it is over before it has already begun.

But for a rider, sitting atop a writhing bull and mastering such forceful power, it would probably feel like a lifetime.

If the rider doesn't make the eight seconds, they aren't scored and it isn't classified as a ride.

"The eight seconds are calculated towards an animal's ability to buck," Ms Reinke said.

"They can hold the same stamina, at the same level for eight seconds.

"Anything after that you are sort of wearing yourself and wearing the bull out.

"Everything is timed on animal welfare."

For Ms Reinke a few different factors come into play when describing what makes a good practice bull, rodeo bull and bull rider.

She said as she had no bullfighters to train with, only her mum, practice bulls needed to be "more quiet."

When it comes to the skills of a great bull rider, strong mental capacity is important before even entering the field.

"Before you get on a bull you have to try really hard not to psych yourself out and you have to build up a lot of courage because obviously it is a very dangerous sport," Ms Reinke said.

"You have to block out everything that could happen and just focus on the job you have to do.

"You've got to be fit and strength comes into it as well.

"And your hand, eye co-ordination too, you have to meet everything that happens."

Much like their rider, rodeo bulls require the same prowess.

Ms Reinke said the bulls she looked for need to have "a bit of sassiness" about them.

"They've got to be fit, they've got to know what their job is and when their job stops," she said.

"Then there's the build of them, you have to have big horns because the big horns psych the bull riders out every time.

"They need to be big, like baseball bats.

"If they look mean, then you're already winning pretty much."

Ms Reinke said bulls needed to have a big front end for strength and power, but a medium back build because riders "didn't want something lagging behind them."

"They have to be able to kick, spin and they've also got to be able to jump up in the air and then when the rider gets off give them a little bit of a touch up," she said.

And bulls don't have the ability to step out into an area and compete with zero experience like some riders do.

They require years of training from a very early age.

"It starts off with feeding and nutrition, followed by training," Ms Reinke said.

"So they get bucked when they are a yearling to see if they actually can or not.

"If they do something good in that bucking, then you pop.

"We've got a mechanical dummy and it just sits on their back as if it is a rider because they are so young you can't put a rider on them.

"We put that on them, literally all it does is you have a remote in your hand and when you do something good you press the remote and it comes off."

The mechanical dummy weighs 10 kilograms and is used on bulls at around two years of age.

Once the bulls reach about four years, a rider is used on them.

"You train them, so that when they buck, they want to spin," Ms Reinke said.

"That's what you want in a bull.

"You want them to spin, you want big jumps, kicks and all that sort of stuff."

As bull riding is regarded as one of the most dangerous sports in the world, Ms Reinke of course has not escaped competing in the sport unscathed.

She recalled a rodeo at Boyup Brook when she broke her leg, but shrugged it off as "nothing serious."

"It wasn't a bad break, just a fracture," Ms Reinke said,

"I came off the side and his back legs jumped on the back of my calf.

"That was the fourth last bull I ever competed on."

Ms Reinke stopped competing in 2019 because (at only 19 years old) she said she was "getting too big and too old".

She said once a competitor was older than 18, they have to move onto the "bigger and ranker stuff."

"When you are bigger it hurts when you land more and your timing is way off, you just have so much more weight to manoeuvre," Ms Reinke said.

"As you age, you have to go to the novice, then once you go past the money earnings for the novice, you have to move onto the opens and the opens are pretty much the end of it.

"That's the really good bulls.

"Then obviously you can move to the Professional Bull Riders."

Although she has thrown it in on bull riding, Ms Reinke still competes with horses.

In comparison, dealing with horses must be a walk in the park.. right?

Apparently not.

When asked if horses were smoother riding, Ms Reinke admitted she was scared of the hoofed animal.

She said when getting on a bull she knew what to expect, she knew it would be angry and that it would buck.

"You just do your job and get the hell out of there," the youngster said.

"Whereas with horses and the events I do, like team roping, you could amputate your thumb or any finger really.

"You can get rope burn and with hard stopping horses, they stop so hard that you feel like every single time you are going to be sent right over the front.

"I'm more scared of horses than bulls, definitely."

Despite fearing horses she does enjoy competing with them and "absolutely loves" healing in particular.

"Healing is where you partner with someone else and they are on a different horse and they rope the head of the steer, they turn it off and you have to rope the two back feet," she said.

"I rope the two back feet.

"People say it's hard, but I haven't seen the hard part yet, I think I am still on beginner's luck.

"I barely miss, I don't know how.

"You just throw the rope at the feet and if they fumble around in it, you can guarantee as soon as you hear a 'Zzzzp' you've got feet."

As well as competing with horses Ms Reinke now devotes her time and energy into Allbush Cattle Company, which she co-manages with her parents.

Allbush is a breeding and training bucking bull business venture, which started in 2017, when Ms Reinke was 15.

It started with 16 bulls and six cows, which were Eastern States bred, brought into WA, and has since escalated through the use of artificial insemination straws, embryos, more bulls and more cows.

"It just sort of happened, there was an opportunity and we grabbed it," Ms Reinke said.

"We weren't ready for it, we weren't financially ready for it either, but we knew it wouldn't happen again.

"WA needed a change and we were willing to bring that change.

"And now it has snowballed to what it has."

Ms Reinke even recently expanded on the business by purchasing a cow in America to start a breeding herd.

She said she planned to flush the embryos out of the animal and ship them to Australia to artificially inseminate her cows.

While Allbush hasn't sold any bulls yet, they have had enough breeding success and land to keep them all.

If they buck they are taken to rodeos and if they don't then they make for "really good" beef.

It's a win-win.

So what's the end goal for Ms Reinke?

Well, of course she's got big dreams for her future.

First, she plans on completely taking over ownership of Allbush from her parents, which she is well on the way to achieving.

And while she always wanted to work as a veterinarian, she said that was "way out the window".

"I think I am just going to have to marry a vet now," she laughed.

"It would be cheaper."

In terms of her bulls she wants a herd in New South Wales and America, which she had already started because the cow she recently purchased in the United States had a heifer at foot and was currently in calf.

Meanwhile, in WA her biggest goal is to "have all of the contractors work together, bring five each of their best bulls to a show and have a really, really good pen of bulls".

"And then move the PBR competition to WA," Ms Reinke said.

"It is the biggest bull riding association in the world and I want to move that to WA because we haven't had an event like that here, just smaller stuff.

"We're obviously a step down from NSW, but I want us to be on par with Mount Isa's rodeo.

"It is an absolutely huge, insane show.

"I wouldn't even be able to explain it."

The real question is, despite hanging up her rodeo boots, will we ever see Ms Reinke ever compete again?

"If the Boddington rodeo goes ahead in August then yep I will," she said.

"And I can't wait."

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