One moment, Devin Malutin held his hand high in the air, clinging to a bucking bull while cheers from the stands spurred him on. The next, he lay in the dirt as Central Emergency Services personnel and other rodeo participants bent over his broken leg.
Eight seconds on the back of the bull is all it takes for a bull rider to “cover,” or last long enough for a qualifying time. For the bulls at Friday’s opening night of the Progress Days Rodeo at the Soldotna Rodeo Grounds, eight seconds was just too long. None of the riders were able to cover, and no winner was declared.
In the event that no riders cover, it is up to the rodeo producer what to do with the leftover prize money, said Willy Reeder of Anchorage, who was helping to run the rodeo.
This year’s Progress Days Rodeo started out Friday night with a competition called “Beauty and the Beast,” which combined barrel racing with bull riding. Malutin was atop a beast named Love Tap when things suddenly went wrong.
“We’ve got a broken leg,” Kenny Hackett of Holy Cow Ranches could be heard saying to a 911 dispatcher over the phone.
Announcers and onlookers said it appeared the bull had stepped on Malutin’s leg after he hit the ground. Malutin was able to run a few steps away from Love Tap, even after the break occurred.
Deb Reeder, Willy Reeder’s wife, said major injuries are rare compared to bumps and bruises when it comes to bull riding.
While Malutin met a disappointing end to Friday’s rodeo, others went back for a second ride. Luke Moore, of Wasilla, rode a bull named Holy Cow during the exhibition round. Originally from Texas, Moore said his attempt to stay on Holy Cow was only his third ride on a bull since he took up the sport.
“I’ve always wanted to ride bulls,” Moore said. “I didn’t know they had bulls in Alaska.”
Holy Cow had been predicted as the bull to beat at this year’s rodeo.
“He’s like the mascot bull,” said Crystal Hadden of the Last Frontier Barrel Racers in Soldotna.
In fact, the bull got so violent in the chute that it caused its first prospective rider, Wasilla high school student Brady McGrane, to “turn out,” or scratch from the competition.
Seventeen-year-old Austin Boren said practicing with difficult bulls like Holy Cow is what helps a good bull rider become great.
“He’s really mean in the chutes, and he’s the kind of bull you’ve got to get in and get out on,” Boren said. “The way I look at it is, I’d like to be the best one day, and I’d like to ride the best bulls.”
Bulls for the rodeo were provided by Soldotna’s H5 Bucking Bulls, owned by Scooter and Chelsea Hackett. Scooter Hackett was present at the rodeo helping to get bulls in their chutes and ready the participants for their rides.
“Scooter and Chelsea go through a lot of hassle to bring us these bulls, and I don’t believe they get as much credit as they should,” Boren said.
Friday’s barrel racers had more success. The 29 participants were split into four divisions, with cash prizes going to the fastest riders in each. The evening’s best times hovered between 14 and 15 seconds. As soon as a participant knocked over a barrel, however, they and their horse were disqualified.
The rodeo continued Saturday with a Junior Rodeo at 2 p.m. and another adult rodeo at 7 p.m. The rodeo will finish with a lassoing competition, cattle roping and more bull riding at 2 p.m. Sunday.