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Credit: YETI

Bull Riding

CLN Exclusive with YETI Ambassador, Kurt Shepard

Today, we are headed across the globe to chat with PBR Bull Rider and YETI Ambassador Kurt Shepard. Kurt is 29 years old and is from Mareeba, Queensland, Australia. He’s been riding bulls professionally since he was 18 but started when he was about 14 or 15. He always loved watching bull riding as a kid and grew up watching his two cousins ride Bareback horses. But he’s not just a bull rider, he grew up around horses, and cattle and has been riding horses since he was 5. He’s also no stranger to competition since he and his sister grew up doing horse sports and campdrafting from a young age, which is a sport comparable to America’s sorting or cutting on horseback. I was thrilled to sit down and learn more about his career and background in bull riding. Let’s dig in!

Credit: YETI
Credit: YETI

Krysta: How did you get started in bull riding?

Kurt: In the beginning, I think a lot of the natural balance I gained riding horses all those years carried over to my bull riding. Then once I got serious about trying to ride bulls, my mum and dad were fully supportive of me and never tried to hold me back. My dad always told me, “If you’re gonna do it, do it properly.” When I started, Mum and Dad bought me two practice bulls early on and my Dad made me go to a bull riding school before I was allowed to enter a rodeo. When I was 15, I went to my first rodeo, which was the Einasleigh Rodeo, and I placed third in the Junior bull riding. When I was 16 or 17, I started riding open bulls, and as soon as I finished school I pretty much hit the road rodeoing in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria.

My first PBR event was at Julia Creek, QLD when I was 18. Then, a year later I got on a plane to America where I spent 3 months competing at PBR events which was a great experience. I came home and was lucky enough to win the 2014 Australian Pro Rodeo Bullriding Title. I spent 2016 in the US and was on the PBR BFT Series Tour most of that year and was able to compete at the PBR World Finals as an alternate, which was a cool experience. I pretty much spent the majority of my time in the US from 2016 to the end of 2019. At the end of 2019, I came home to get season-ending shoulder surgery and haven’t been back overseas.

Since then, I’ve been competing in PBR events along with a few rodeos here in Australia and when I’m not away traveling I’ve been working on the family Lime farm until the start of this year. Also since coming home my partner, Emily, and I have started building a life together. We have a dog named “Chille”, a little herd of heifers, and are looking at trying to buy a couple of horses at some point. We’ve been together almost five years now and I can’t wait for what the future holds for us. She’s a massive supporter of me and my bull riding career and I couldn’t keep doing it without her support, she’s the best.

Credit: YETI
Credit: YETI

Krysta: I read that your initial interest in bull riding was piqued by winning $200 on a mechanical bull. What’s it like looking back at how far you’ve come since then?

Kurt: It’s crazy to think that sparked a thought of whether I could actually ride the real thing and now here we are about 15 years later. I guess you could say I’m proud of myself when I look back, and definitely wouldn’t have thought back then that I’d get to travel to the countries I have and see the places that I have and the people I’ve met along the way. Being a Professional Bull Rider has taken me on a pretty cool journey.

Krysta: What is the hardest thing about being a PBR Bull rider?

Kurt: The hardest thing would probably be when overseas being away from family and friends. And then missing out on the things you might normally do on a weekend, you definitely have to sacrifice. Another thing would be injuries that can come with the sport, the mental toll it can take on you and the people closest to you it affects because I’m pretty guilty of probably not being the best person to be around when I’m hurt. And I thank my family(mum, dad my sister Markayla) and my partner Emily for being there for me during these times. Em has been the closest to me the last few years and she’s seen me at my worst a fair few times with injury and had to put up with a fair bit. She’s also been a huge motivator in getting me back in the gym, eating right, and back on track in my recovery. I’d be lost without her.

Credit: YETI
Credit: YETI

Krysta: Is there anything you would have done differently in your career up until this point?

Kurt: There are probably a couple of things I think I could have done better in regards to going to America when I did and entering up in PBR events. I just kind of jumped straight in the deep end back in 2014, when I was 19 at the Denver PBR, the first bull I got on was Cowtown Slinger. But I was just going for it and I think there was some good that came out of it all too. Maybe I could have waited a couple of years before going over there till I was a little more experienced or maybe went rodeoing first as a stepping stone to the PBR.

Krysta: What is the best advice you can give aspiring bull riders?

Kurt: The best advice would be if you really want to do this sport then go for it 100%. Get on as many bulls as often as you can and go to as many rodeos and bull riding events as you can. Don’t be afraid to travel. You can go fishing and camping or whatever else you might like to do when you’re 50. This is a younger man’s game so sacrifice now and live your dream. I’m a big believer that if you put the work in during the week the results will show up on the weekend. For example, I workout at least four times a week (strength training, yoga, cardio, circuits) and get on my drop barrel every night. You can also get on practice bulls during the week and or ride a horse bareback. Eating clean and healthy and staying away from alcohol will benefit you too.

Credit: YETI
Credit: YETI

Krysta: What do your plans for the future look like? 

Kurt: My plans for the future are to continue to ride bulls here in Australia, I feel like I’m in my prime and have plenty that I want to achieve in the sport. I’m excited to continue to build a life with my partner Emily and we have a few goals we’d like to achieve together in the near future. I would also love to find a way to help have a sports medicine team here in Australia as there currently isn’t any to take care of the bull riders and PBR Australia is not really interested in spending the money to get one organized.

Kurt’s Favorite YETI Products

Krysta: What has it meant to be a part of the YETI Ambassador team?

Kurt: It means a lot to me to be a part of the team. It’s such a cool brand and I love how YETI is a great fan of the sport of Professional Bull Riding, along with other extreme sports and outdoor activities. Honestly, I don’t know who wouldn’t want to be sponsored by YETI. I’m very lucky and grateful to have the support of such a great brand. Thanks YETI! And I just can’t wait to keep tying my hand to the best bulls we have in Australia and trying to be the best I can possibly be!

Credit: YETI
Credit: YETI

This was such a fun interview with Kurt Shepard and I can’t wait to see where he goes in his bull riding journey. Who knows, maybe we will see him competing stateside in the future! A huge thanks to YETI for the continual support that they show these athletes as they go down the road. Just like Kurt said, it’s amazing to see such a large brand taking care of the athletes and ambassadors they work with. Thanks for tuning in and make sure to check out and follow YETI on your favorite social media platforms.

Hi everyone! I'm Krysta Paffrath, I am a proud Arizona native who has a passion for everything business and rodeo. I am beyond thrilled to be the Editor in Chief for Cowboy Lifestyle Network. With my background in digital marketing and rodeo, this was a natural fit for me to join the team. My adventurous and entrepreneurial spirit has guided me to work in many places like the WYO Quarter Horse Ranch in Thermopolis, Wyoming, a working cattle ranch in Seligman, Arizona, and many places in between. I am passionate about preserving the western way of life and working with different brands and rodeos to make that happen. If you're looking for a write-up, please shoot me an email at krysta@clngo.com. Learn more about me at krystapaffrath.com. Looking forward to hearing from you!

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