How long does it take to become a world champion bull rider? According to Greeley, Colo., cowboy, Garrett Veneziano, two years and nine months.
In this short span, Garrett went from riding the couch with his cousin at Grandma’s house, to riding bulls at the National Little Britches Finals Rodeo (NLBFR) in Pueblo, Colo. And he didn’t just attend the event, he won both the finals and the season average titles and walked away the 2012 NLBRA Junior Bull Riding World Champion.
Veneziano explains, “The Professional Bull Riders (PBR) came on TV and I watched J.B. Mauney, Kody Lostroh and Josh Koschel ride. I thought to myself, that’s what I want to do when I get older. I want to go pro.” Soon after, however, football started up and the feeling faded away.
Fast forward one year. “... then I was sitting in music class one day pretty bored. I started thinking about what I saw on TV again and decided I was going to become a professional bull rider.” And just like that, a career was born.
The decision was the easy part. Fortunately for Garrett, two of the three PBR cowboys he watched on TV lived not too far away. He tells the story, “My family and I went to a bucking bull futurity hosted by Troy Baird,” Veneziano begins. He continues, “Kody and Josh were there and my mom asked their recommendation for a bull riding school.” The cowboys’ reply, “Just bring him to us.”
“They took me under their wing and are teaching me how to ride,” explains Garrett. His progress serves as testimony to the fact the pros are as good at teaching as they are competing. “My first qualified ride came at a Mountain States Young Guns (MSYG) bull riding when I was 77 points. Then my third ride came during the Greeley Stampede Kid’s Rodeo. My bull came out and spun to the left, then to the right, and I was 91 points. Third time’s the charm I guess,” says Garrett.
Garrett continued his winning ways after joining the NLBRA in 2011. He qualified for his first NLBFR the same year, then set out to improve his results in 2012. With many options to compete close to home, Veneziano was able to find Little Britches rodeos that fit his busy life. His schedule included rodeos that were not far from home, with stops in Brush, Yuma, Kiowa and Loveland.
“I rode both my bulls at the first rodeo,” says Garrett. He continues, “In Yuma I rode the first bull, but then slapped the second for a no-score at about 6.8 seconds. I rode both bulls at Kiowa, and then got on a grandson of Bodacious in Loveland. I got him rode too.”
Along with the rides have come a few wrecks. “My rookie year a bull fell on me,” he explains. “I still have a scar in the shape of his hoof on my leg. I’ve broke my thumb and my hand and I also had a bull step on my arm and break it.” The list continues. “I got knocked out once as well. I didn’t know it at the time. I just saw a lot of black spots. I bucked off pretty hard and thought I got up right away and ran to the fence. We have a video and it shows I laid there for a little while before I got up. I don’t remember that. I was checked out by the paramedics and we all thought I was fine. They said I was OK to leave, but gave my dad a list of things to look for when someone has a concussion. When we got home, I was really grumpy and within about 15 minutes my dad said I had done everything on the list. My parents had to take me to the emergency room.” Garrett’s best memory of the injury is the fact that after sitting out two weeks, he won the next rodeo he entered and $100.
Injuries haven’t slowed Veneziano down at all. “You’re going to get hurt in this sport,” he comments maturely. “If you’re not sore by the end of the day then you’re not doing something right,” he concludes. Garrett maintains a focus on the big picture and having fun. This attitude was the key to the results he achieved during his run at the finals. He arrived in town in 14th place, with a lot of ground to make up to be in contention for the NLBRA world title.
“My first bull jumped high and went left,” remembers Garrett. He earned 69 points and first place for his efforts in round one. Round two was a bit of a struggle. “My second bull was out one jump, then fell down. I took the re-ride, but only scored 59 points on him.” The score, though not fantastic by Garrett’s standards, tied him for 7/8/9 in the round and kept him in the hunt. In the words of this 14-year-old, the situation was both good and bad. “The buckles for round two were really nice and three more points and I could have had one,” he says. This was good. “It sorta worked out OK anyway,” he concludes. “I didn’t want to have to get up at 7:00 a.m. to go get a fourth place buckle anyway.” That would have been bad.
In the final round, Garrett’s destiny was equally split. Half was within his control. Half was left to plain old luck. Garrett did his part by making a great ride. Lady luck held up her end by allowing the score to be just good enough to win the average. “I drew one of Jay William’s bulls in the short-go and spurred him to a score of 62,” recalls Veneziano.
The only bad luck Garrett claims to have had during the finals was after the rodeo’s conclusion. Due to a tie in the last round, a coin flip was necessary to decide who would get the first place buckle right away (each contestant would get a 1st place buckle for the round, but two cowboys would have to wait for the updated hardware). “We flipped to see who would take the buckle that was ready home ... and I lost,” explains Veneziano.
The loss was soon forgotten when Garrett received his Circle Y Saddle and Circle Y Buckles for winning the finals average and world champion titles.
While he does not compete outside of bull riding, Veneziano has proven he’s not one dimensional in the arena and admits interest in one other event.
“I fought sheep during the Greeley Stampede rodeo this year,” he explains. “I was sitting home bored and a friend called and told me there was plenty to do down there. So I went and helped Kevin Rich with the mutton bustin’ at the Stampede. I started by helping load sheep into the chutes, but sheep are not real smart and that got old fast. My friend, Ryder (Rich), offered to trade me and let me be the sheep fighter, so I switched him. That was one of the best decisions I made that week.” There was one drawback to the deal. “On the last day, there were 45 kids signed up and only one turned out. I had to run the length of the arena full speed every ride. I got really tired toward the end.”
The other event that captures Garrett’s attention is ... barrel racing. He’s not compelled to enter the event. His interest is solely as an observer of, “... all the pretty girls,” that compete.
Veneziano’s passion for riding bulls is fueled by the inspiration he receives from others. The most inspiring person in his life is his brother, Zach. “My brother isn’t able to compete due to developmental disabilities. I admire him because he has had to overcome so much to do what he does. If I were him, I would not be able to overcome things the way he has. I ride for him and he supports me at every rodeo. If you know Zach, you know he never sits still unless they call my name. As soon as he hears it, he goes to the top of the fence and sits and cheers for me.”
This speaks volumes about the champion, who minimizes challenges of his own. According to Garrett, “I consider my biggest accomplishments so far winning the Junior Boys Little Britches World Bull Riding title and scoring 91 points at the Greeley Stampede Kid’s Rodeo. Right behind these feats ranks another proud moment in Garrett’s estimation. “I was on the University School’s student honor roll twice last year. I had a 3.7 GPA and was named the Student of the Semester once.” This is in spite of the fact he battles dyslexia.
Garrett goes on to make a point to give credit to other supporters as well. His mom, Sherri, and dad, Paul, are constant sources of encouragement. He remains in touch with his rodeo idols — Kody and Josh, and is thankful for several local cowboys as well. “Kyle Vanlandingham and Kevin Rich put on bull ridings where I live and it’s nice to compete at their events. Kyle puts on faith based events through ‘At the Foot of the Cross Ministries.’ Kevin hosts year-round bull ridings with the MSYG series.
Another adult helper Garrett extends thanks to is Randy Olson. “While a lot of guys focus on the physical side, Randy talks a lot about the mental aspects of riding. He brought a hand operated bucking machine to the finals and gave me a tune up right before the short round. That really helped.”
Veneziano and his buddies are a tightknit group as well. One friend, and pretty good bull rider in his own right, is Loveland’s Tommy Patrick. A bull riding wreck a couple weeks prior to the NLBFR kept Patrick from competing in Pueblo, but didn’t stop him from attending the short-go to support his friend.
In the end, Garrett shares the role his faith plays in his life. “I give God the glory and praise. He keeps me going and safe. Without Him, I couldn’t do any of this — and for sure would not have won a world title.” ❖