ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Bodies being flung back and forth while a horse tries to fling riders off. That is part of what bareback riders experience when competing at the rodeo. While it can be entertaining, it also can take a toll on the rider’s mind and body.

“All of these cowboys and cowgirls put their lives on the line nightly to compete and they are at the top speed and top peak performance for you,” said Leslie Jackson-Coe, program manager for Justin Sportsmedicine.

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KRQE News 13 spoke with Jackson-Coe at the PRCA Rodeo at the 2023 New Mexico State Fair on Wednesday. She said bareback riders often see injuries due to the intense nature of the sport. “Bareback is a hard one to ride because you’re strapped in the rigging. But it’s not any more difficult than any of our other rough shock events,” she explained.

Bareback riders Dylan Riggins, 26, from Kadoka, South Dakota, and Tyler Ferguson, 30, from Deer Trail, Colorado, competed in the rodeo at the state fair Wednesday. The two are no strangers to injuries.

Dylan Riggins (left) and Tyler Ferguson (Right) at the 2023 New Mexico State Fair rodeo. (KRQE)

Riggins was severely hurt when a horse fell on top of him and then flung him off during the College National Rodeo Finals in June 2021. He suffered a broken sternum, broken collar bone, broken shoulder, cracked ribs, and a bruised lung. Ferguson was also injured in 2021 when a bucking horse knocked out his front teeth, according to the Denver Post.

Riggins said bareback riders have to be physically and mentally tough before participating in the rodeo and riding a random horse they were assigned. “So you got to be going to the gym and just be mentally and physically prepared for anything. Whether that’s a nice offer that you draw or if it’s like a man killer. Fortunately, I drew a good one today,” Riggins said.

Ferguson also agreed that riders need to be physically and mentally tough. Before competing, Ferguson said he tries not to think about what he is about to do. “Try not to break it down. Just keep it simple. Don’t think about it,” he said. During the competition, Ferguson said his mind follows a similar course “If you were to think, it’s already too late, it’s so fast. But that’s the cool part of it is how fast it is, and for your body to do what it needs to without you telling it is pretty incredible,” he explained.

Justin Sportsmedicine at the 2023 New Mexico State Fair rodeo. (KRQE)

Jackson-Coe has worked with Justin Sportsmedicine for the last 23 years. She said athletes have recently become more aware of the toll competing can take on their bodies. “Over the last few years, a lot of our athletes have learned how to prepare for athletics. When I first got into this, they weren’t as mindful of their bodies and now they are in the gyms daily and they are taking care of their bodies the way they should.”

When Riggins was asked if there is anything he knew today that he wished he had known when he first started he replied, “Oh man, turn out the bad ones if it’s not worth going, but this was a good one worth going to. And so I’m happy to be here,” he said.

Ferguson offered the following advice for anyone interested in bareback riding: “It never slows down but you get faster. But yeah, just go and do it.”