It all starts the same way, with the dropping of a gate and a crazy adrenaline rush to follow.
That may be where the similarities end between racing on the ski cross World Cup circuit and holding onto a bucking bull for eight seconds, but Big Rig Reece Howden is proving to be adept at taming both beast and course.
This summer, Reece went down to Texas to intern for Dale Brisby at the Beaches of Winnebago for a few weeks. To Reece, this was the opportunity of a lifetime after following Dale on Instagram for several years.
“Ever since I was a kid I loved going to the local rodeos,” says Reece, who grew up in Cultus Lake, B.C. “My favourite event to watch was the bull riding, and I was so intrigued because it seemed so unattainable.”
The desire blossomed from there, and after graduating from high school the urge to hop on a bull kept growing. It was difficult to find an in without any connections to rodeo in the family, though. (But his dad did win a belt buckle in a mechanical bull competition, beating out a bunch of cowboys while wearing his tennis shoes!) This changed the second Reece saw that post looking for interns and he leapt at the chance to fulfill his long-term dream. But the learning curve was steep.
“I’d been on horses when I was a kid, but never truly rode a horse until I went to Texas. It was also the first time I was on a bull,” says Reece.
It didn’t take long to get comfortable though. After a couple of rides, the feeling of being in the bucking shoot was the same as the start gate of a World Cup race. However, the margin for error is a bit smaller when it comes to the bulls.
“I’m usually the biggest guy on the course,” says Reece. “When you ride bulls, you’re at the mercy of the bull and there’s not much you can do to muscle them around.”
Finding this new passion and love for rodeo fits right into the fold for Reece; while he doesn’t call himself an adrenaline junkie, he admits that others may see things differently. “All I can say is my favourite things to do are skiing big mountains, white water kayaking, snowmobiling, mountain biking, and riding bulls.”
Don’t count him out of the start gate in ski cross though. This budding rodeo king is not trading in his ski boots for cowboy leather just yet. “I couldn’t pick between rodeo or ski cross right now. Riding bulls is like the new girlfriend, and everything seems awesome. But ski cross has given me everything, including the opportunity to get on the bulls. I’m going to keep on living every day like it’s my last and see what happens down the road.”