My latest book, Rodeo Dreams, follows the story of June Spotted Elk, a young woman who’s trying to break into professional bull riding. And what better way to talk about women in bull riding than to ask a female bull rider about her job? I’m thrilled today to introduce Kara Vasquez, an up-and-coming bull rider! She’s got some amazing stories to tell about being a professional bull rider. Take it away, Kara!
SMA: When did you start riding?
KV: I actually started riding bulls when I was very little. My grandpa lived in Tennessee and had a ranch I would go to every summer for half the summer. There were always rodeos going on. One day he took me with him. I was only 3 years old at the time. I remember him telling me I’ll see him do something very dangerous but something that everyone loves watching him do. I didn’t really know what he meant so I just nodded and smiled at him. I watched him ride the biggest, baddest bull they had at the rodeo. He was all black and a big Brahmer. I loved that bull from the first time I saw him. My papa rode and came close to the cover until the black bull did a belly roll and got him off. He came back smiling and said to me that it was ok if he didn’t cover him it was just another bull. As I was walking around to look at all the bulls they had behind the chutes I notice they had sheep, I thought that was the craziest thing I ever seen. I ask my papa why they had them and well…I found out quick when he put a number in my back and told me to hang on tight to the sheep. I remember thinking “I’m just like papa, I’ll cover him.” The chute opened up and I rode that furry friend till I couldn’t anymore which was after the buzzer went off and the rodeo clowns had to pry me off. That day I realize that I wanted to be like my pa. I rode sheep till I was 5 years old and then at my Papa’s ranch he had bull calves that were strong enough to hold my little self. He sat the rope for me and then the chute opened, almost every time I would cover all the bull calves he had. I rode at the local rodeos out by him, witch was always the one I first started out. As I grew bigger he started putting me on bigger ones.
One day when I was 7, his friend brought over a big brown bull name Preacher, they put him in the chute and told me to get ready, I was nervous because he was almost a full-grow bull. He was huge! And very stocky. I looked at him and just got down on him, he bucked and kicked around in the chute, which I was used to from all the other bulls I’ve rode. I got my hand set and was ready to nod but I paused myself and prayed to God that he would help me cover this one. The chute opened up and he gave me hell. I was so close to covering him when I noticed he was about to fake me out, he lifted his right shoulder and started to move his body left, so I went along but he pulled a fast one on me and ended up going to the right, he had me off. For months I’ve rode him and a few other bulls my grandpa had. Fast forward to when I was 12, I rode every summer down in Tennessee and finally I didn’t anymore when my grandpa passed away.
His friend bought the bulls and half of the ranch, I made a promise to my grandpa when I first turned 12 that no matter what happened I would never quit and give up on my dreams. I still rode but it was hard for me to overcome what happened to my papa. When I turned 14, I went to a local fair rodeo out in Dowagiac, Michigan. I watched all the cowboys get ready for the bulls. But that day changed me. I met one of the cowboys that won the rodeo. His name was J.W. Kaler. We became like a brother and a sister. One day he came and got me and said we were going somewhere. Just down the street from me is a practice pen called the Bottom Dollar Ranch. I was so excited, he pointed at a buckskin bull and said that is your draw. I was so overwhelmed but I told him, “But I don’t have any off my gear.” He smiled and said, “Look in the trunk of my car” I opened it, but it was only his stuff and my cowboy hat. “You’re riding with me now, you can use my gear.” The owner of the ranch, Neil Skogen, said “Welcome to the family! I see you must be lucky, no one rides with Jdub’s gear.” I looked over to my brother (Jdub) and smiled. I got ready to ride. I been riding at the ranch since I was 14 years old and now I’m 17 going on 18. I covered some and I lost some.
SMA: What was your worst ride? What was your best ride?
KV: Well… Honestly I’ve had quite a few worst rides, just because one year I had a boyfriend and it caused me to lose my focus on my dreams, I was always worrying about him because he was also a bull rider and we hardly saw each other. It was me and my brother and a few of our friends all sitting on the chutes eating and telling some stories and stuff, across the pen I saw him with another girl and I found out he was dating her and me at the same time (good thing we never did anything!). That day I drew 137 Big Baller, the newest bull of the rodeo we were at. He was a brindle color and a huge, mean bull. I tried everything to clear my head but nothing worked, I was furious but I had to ride! I set my rope and got down but no sooner did I had my hand almost set the bull reared up over the chutes and had me pinned between him and the back board. They finally got me out and him to stay down. I retied my hand and nodded. He spun really hard into my hand and then belly-rolled away. I lost my spur on the belly roll and ended up flipped on the other side of him and he lost his footing and came down on me, the full force with his whole body. He got up but my hand wouldn’t come out. I was hung up, the bull fighters tried everything to get me but the bull won’t let them near me, finally after 5 minutes one of the fighters cut my rope and dragged me out of the pen. I couldn’t walk on my left side, I couldn’t breathe. I was rushed to the hospital where we found out that I had 4 broken ribs on my right side, a broken leg on my left and a fractured right wrist (witch is my riding hand). I was out of the game for a few months. 🙁 It was depressing.
I’ve had a lot of best rides too, but the one I will never forget is when I first started riding at the Bottom Dollar, they have a bull called Spook Dawg, a big black bull but doesn’t harm anyone, you can walk right up to that bull and hug him and even get on him and love on him. He is a big teddy bear outside of the chute and serious in the chutes. I’ve rode him for months and could never figure him out. One person covered him and that is my brother. Finally, one day after I got hurt, I was suppose to ride him but everyone told me no, just rest. But I replied, “It will buff out, sometimes you just gotta be a cowboy.” I went on and rode him, and I finally covered. I got off and just about screamed. I was so happy! Everyone was proud of me. I was the first girl ever to cover him, the first to ever ride him longer than 8 seconds and the first to understand him and his body language. It was the best day of my life
SMA: Have you competed against men and women?
KV: I always compete against men, most of them talk down on me and try to ruin my confidence and most congratulate me after the rides. There’s only 2 times I’ve competed against another female but and it was the same one both times until she quit.
SMA: What’s your riding style like?
KV: Honestly I have my own riding style but it’s a mixture of J.B Mauney and Lane Frost, and then I add my own style with it. Alot of times when I ride and it’s somewhere new where most riders don’t know me I always get people that come to me and say I ride just like Lane Frost or J.B Mauney. So it’s kinda sweet being known like that.
SMA: How does the audience respond to your rides?
KV: Well pretty much all the time, I shock the crow—unless it’s somewhere I’ve been and they know me. So pretty much all the time I get people yelling and screaming, cheering me on, which is really sweet. And them if I don’t cover, they just “awwww” and still cheer me on.
SMA: Describe your interactions with your competitors, both male and female.
KV: Well, pretty much I get along with everyone! Even if they’re mean to me or something, I cheer on everyone and support everyone that rides. I always give tips and advice to the rookies and even the pros come to me most the time to get my help and advice or what I think the bull will do and act and how they should ride. I’m always on top the chutes, pulling ropes, spotting people and yelling and screaming to cheer them on. At the end of the day I’ll cheer the ones that didn’t cover by singing songs, telling rodeo stories, and just joking around. It’s always a great time with me around cause I make sure no one goes home upset.
SMA: Do you have a traveling partner? How do you get to the rides?
KV: Well, I did have a traveling partner, it was Jdub and then he made it to the PBR, so I don’t really travel with him. I stared traveling with a friend of mine, Derek Lambright but on November 22, 2013, he was killed in a car wreck on his way to a rodeo. We were supposed to travel together but he had to work so I went with my dog there. I was at the rodeo texting him (he was at a gas station at the time of my message) and asked him of he was on his way he said yes, the very last thing I got from him was “I’ll see ya soon bud, I love you, if you ride before I get there. Cowboy Up and spur him for 90! :)” Moments later, I got a phone call from Indiana police saying that Derek has been killed in a car wreck. That night was the first night I ever thought about turning my bull loose and going to Derek, but something was telling me I needed to ride my bull. So I looked up, prayed to God and to Derek and rode, I rode my bull and covered it, with a bad hit to the chest but I was fine. Then Derek’s bull came up and everyone took a moment of silence. The contractor asked me if I wanted to ride him for Derek, I paused looked out in the arena and seen Derek nodding at me to ride him. I couldn’t breathe or feel my hands but I sat down and rode him. I rode that bull, covering him. But I didn’t let go at the buzzer. I did what Tuff did for Lane, I didn’t just ride him, I RODE him, and finally Derek told me it was time to get off so I did. I had hats flying at me for all directions. And the bull just walked around the arena knowing why I did what I did. I was a sad day to drive back home. I currently don’t have a traveling partner anymore, just my dog. What I do to get to the rodeos, well, I drive. I have my own truck and my own money so if I need to get there I’ll get there.
SMA: How do you prepare for a ride?
KV: What I always do before I ride is I put my headphones in and listen to my rodeo songs, like B.R.S.O.B (bull riding son of a bitch) that song by Luke Kaufman. But I put my headphones in, tune everyone out. Stay far away from everyone and sit down and stretch and close my eyes and think to my self “I’m gonna cover this bull, this bull is just another draw, God made me to do this, I will not fear this bull, I will cover this bull and I will win.” I tell myself that all the time, I’m always thinking positive. And I just ride with a clear mind.
SMA: Make-up for a ride or no?
KV: Honestly I don’t wear make-up. It’s pointless, your just gonna sweat it off and bleed it off anyways. The only make up I wear is dirt, sweat, and mud and oh… half the time bull shit when it gets flung up from the bulls. LOL!
SMA: How many events do you ride at in a year/season?
KV: Honestly I travel a lot so I’m always at rodeos, it’s hard to keep count, in summer I ride everyday of the week because riding is my job, it’s my career and it’s my life. In the winter I only ride every weekend meaning Fridays to Sundays. I usually ride anywhere from 2-3 rodeos in a day. It also depends on if I’m hurt or not and have to sit out. But I ride all year around.
SMA: How do you feel about the bulls you ride?
KV: Honestly, I love all the bulls I ride because every time is a new challenge. I like smaller bulls because their fast spinning but I also like the bigger bulls because they can get some wicked air.
SMA: Are you the same person inside the arena as you are out of it?
KV: I think so. I treat everyone equal. I’m more social when I’m at rodeos because I talk about riding so much that half the time if someone doesn’t know about riding they’re just sitting there like “huh?” But I’m an all-around girl. I’m just a normal cowgirl but honestly I don’t get called a cowgirl just because I’m tougher than most girls and I’m tougher than most guys so most the time I get called Cowboy! The only thing different about me is when I’m in the arena or around the rodeo I’m more serious until after I ride. I don’t talk to anyone until I’m done riding. A lot of people know not to mess with me when I’m getting ready to ride. But I’m pretty much the same.
SMA: How did your parents feel when you started riding? How do they feel now?
KV: Oh, man! My parents did not like it one bit, the funny thing is, they didn’t know I was riding until I turned 12 and my papa died. And now…well, they still don’t like the fact I do but they support me and my dreams. They really started supporting me when they saw me go pro and get sponsors.
SMA: Would you encourage other women to take up the sport?
KV: Honestly I would, but you have to have the heart and the dedication and love for it. You just can’t go out there and expect to win every time or do it because you’ll look “cool” and “all the boys will notice you.” No that’s not what it’s about. See, I love being bucked by horses and bulls. I love feeling the danger and adrenaline rush and feeling I can overcome anything. I love that. And if you don’t then this is not the sport a girl wants to be in. It takes guts and a lot of broken bones.
SMA: What hurts the worst during and after a ride?
KV: With me it’s my back just because I’ve always had a bad back, but sometimes your head will hurt from getting whipped around so fast it will cause a headache.
SMA: What do you do with your hair?
KV: LOL! I leave my hair in a low ponytail because my hat and my helmet won’t fit if I have it in a high one. I leave my hair a mess! I don’t care how I look, really.
SMA: How much money do you earn in a typical weekend?
KV: Well in a weekend it all depends on how well I ride and how well my bull performs. I usually always sit 1st-3rd place. At a good rodeo I’ll make anywhere for $2,000 at one on one day and $500-1,000 the next, I usually make a lot more just because I ride the pro circuit.
SMA: Where do you change after the rides?
KV: Haha! Honestly I don’t change half the time. I show up and ride with what I’m wearing or if I do need to change I’ll change in my truck.
SMA: What else do you want people to know about you?
KV: Well… I’m very hard working, I have a southern voice, I’m not like most girls, and I take my bull riding very seriously. I’m on the pro circuit. I’ve won many awards for being the first girl to do whatever it is half the time… And a lot of being come to me for autographs, pictures to be on the cover of something to promote something. And pretty much everywhere I go I have people asking me for my autograph or people say, “Hey, you’re that famous female bull rider!” I don’t brag about it—if they know me, fine, if they don’t, oh well. I’m very humble and I’m always there for whoever needs me. I’m a redhead which is very uncommon to see around the chutes. But I’m pretty well known around my parts and in a lot of different states. And if you need to know more you can add me on Facebook which is Kara Vasquez (Crash) or follow me on Instagram at brahmertamer and I will soon be on a Twitter again.
SMA: Kara, thank you SO much for such a wonderful interview! Readers, do you have any questions for Kara? I’m giving away two copies of Rodeo Dreams below!
Love is one unpredictable ride
Ride straight to the top of the rodeo circuit—that’s June Spotted Elk’s dream. Yes, bull-riding is a man’s world, but she won’t let anyone—not even a sexy, scarred stranger—get in her way.
Seasoned bull rider Travis Younkin knows what it’s like to make it to the top—and then hit the bottom. Back in the arena to resurrect his career, he can’t afford a distraction like June. No matter how far he’ll go to protect her from the danger. No matter how deeply the stubborn and beautiful rider gets to him…
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Award-winning author Sarah M. Anderson may live east of the Mississippi River, but her heart lies out west on the Great Plains. With a lifelong love of horses and two history teachers for parents, it wasn’t long before her characters found themselves out in South Dakota among the Lakota Sioux. She loves to put people from two different worlds into new situations and to see how their backgrounds and cultures take them someplace they never thought they’d go. Sarah won the 2012 RT Book Reviewer’s Choice for Desire of the Year for A Man of Privilege.
When not helping out at school or walking her rescue dogs, Sarah spends her days having conversations with imaginary cowboys and American Indians, all of which is surprisingly well-tolerated by her wonderful husband and son. You can learn more about Sarah at :
www.sarahmanderson.com |Twitter: @SarahMAnderson1Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sarah-M-Anderson-Author/190913297595486?ref_type=bookmark
[…] bull rider Kara Vasquez (one of the few, the proud, the brave women to ride bulls!) over at Scorching Book Reviews–her story is simply amazing and I hope you take the time to read about […]
Fascinating interview, I’ve read books with male bull riders and they’ve never mentioned female bull riders.
Hi Amy! It’s true that female bull riders are a rare breed, but they go back decades. There have only been a few that have cracked the top tier–I hope Kara makes it to the PBR! Thanks for stopping by!
What an awesome interview! I love hearing about strong, determined women who go after their dreams. Keep kicking butt, Kara, and thanks for sharing! 🙂