European Spotlight: Chris Hebert, all-around cowboy
How did you get involved in rodeo?
I was stationed [in the Army] in Colorado and played a little bit there. I got over to Germany and found out about the ERCA [European Rodeo Cowboy Association, www.ercarodeo.com], got into it and have been stuck ever since.
When you say “All-Around Cowboy,” what are we talking about?
I ride saddle broncs, ride bulls, do breakaway calf-roping, rescue-race …
With a female partner. Typically she rides in from the other side (of the arena) and turns her horse around me, and I have to jump on the back of her horse and ride to the finish line. The fastest time wins.
Like in the movies?
Like in a stampede, pretty much. And, finally, bullfighter.
Bullfighter? Like in Spain?
No. They also call it cowboy lifesaver. If a bull is going to try to hit the cowboy, we step in and take the hit.
Commonly known as …
Rodeo clown. I don’t wear makeup. I do wear the baggy pants, traditional Western-style long-sleeve buttoned-up T-shirt. We have our padding underneath. A lot of people don’t understand: You’ve got an 1,800-pound bull, and you’ve go to stand in front of it.
There must be a technique, right?
After you’re around an animal for so long, you learn how they move. You can’t outrun a bull. It has four legs and you have two. You can turn faster with two legs; he can run faster with four.
What’s hurt the most so far?
I got my groin stepped on.
What the scariest time you’ve had?
A bull stuck his horn in my throat. I was a bullfighter, and I went to [intercept] him, and I lost my feet a little bit and he swung his head and hit my throat with his horn. Adrenalin is a funny thing. You can get hit and you don’t know how badly you’ve been hurt. My worst days are Mondays.
What does it take inside to be a good rodeo rider?
A lot of heart, and a lot of try. And patience. Nobody becomes great overnight. I’ve been doing this over here since 2000. I work on the basic fundamentals just like any sport. I watch training videos, a lot of old rodeo films, and as weird as it sounds, I ride bucking horses in my head. It’s my main thing, something I’ve enjoyed doing for a long time.
How come a cowboy always starts an event with a hat, when it flies off in about a half-second? Why wear one at all?
We have a dress code and the hat is a part of it.
Interview by Charlie Coon.
Title: All-Around Cowboy
Day job: Mechanic at Galaxy Bowling Center, Panzer Casern, Stuttgart, Germany)
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