(Bare)Back to School! Casey Colletti holds first Rocky Mountain Bareback School | TheFencePost.com

(Bare)Back to School! Casey Colletti holds first Rocky Mountain Bareback School

Story & Photos by Lincoln Rogers
Parker, Colo.

It was back to school in late September for 13 students ranging from 15 to 52 years of age, but instead of four walls and desks, the classroom was arena sand inside the Colorado State Fairgrounds and their five teachers were PRCA bareback riders from Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.

The school was the inaugural "Rocky Mountain Bareback School," headed up by multiple NFR qualifier and 2011 Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo champ Casey Colletti from Pueblo, Colo. Colletti exploded onto the rodeo scene in 2011, but wants to waste no time giving back and helping anyone else interested in joining the ranks of PRCA bareback cowboys.

"I was super lucky growing up," explained Colletti about his reasons behind starting the school. "My dad rode bareback for 23 years, so I got to learn. He'd go to the rodeos and take video tape and tell me what I did right or wrong. Around here in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico, there are not that many rodeo schools — especially for bareback riding. I don't think it's that nobody wants to do it," he added. "We got 13 students in our first year."

Those 13 students received instruction from one of the best in the sport over the last two years, as well four other quality bareback cowboys invited by Colletti to help teach.

"We have some of the best instructors in the world, (here)," said Colletti about his friends who arrived for the weekend. "We have Caleb Bennett, who (is ranked ninth in the world) this year. We have Tim Shirley, a 2008 NFR qualifier (who finished 11th that year). Seth Hardwick, he's (ranked 27th) in the world this year (and) Zach Curran, who is in my opinion, truthfully, one of the best bareback riders going down the road."

Starting on Saturday morning, students practiced on spur boards and a mighty broncy, heard tips about gear and preparation and listened to visiting PRCA judges educate them about the sport. As participants worked toward riding a pen of energetic colts donated for use by the Harry Vold Rodeo Company, all five instructors drilled fundamentals and then patiently helped riders inside the chutes before each gate swung wide. Afterward, the group would break down videos in order to learn even more. That volume of time and attention to detail was appreciated by family members in attendance.

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"A lot of the schools rush through (getting students to ride)," said Aaron Delgado, father of 17-year-old Colton Delgado, who traveled from Kansas to take part. "These guys are spending time; they're not rushing. Some will be in the chutes 30 minutes working with (a student). I love it."

"This is a really good bunch of (instructors)," agreed Wendie Reese, mother of 15-year-old Trevor Reese. "You want to see (students) learning from people that are in it and doing it. This is the best you could hope for, is (instructors) that have been there and saying, this is how we were and this is where we are today."

It was safe to say participants soaked up every drop of knowledge and experience the quintet of PRCA cowboys offered.

"I think this is one of the best things anyone could possibly want to go to, because you've got five instructors and they are all focused on one aspect," declared Trevor Reese, a personable 15-year-old from Pueblo, Colo., who won the "Chute Out" riding competition on Sunday afternoon, along with a custom trophy buckle. "This is like a dream come true, getting on great horses and having great instructors."

"I think it's great," affirmed Colton Delgado, a 17-year-old in his third year of riding bareback horses. "I learned a lot from (the instructors). They all ride different and give you different ideas and teach you a lot."

The four invited instructors also enjoyed their roles in the weekend.

"I wasn't 100 percent sure of what I was expecting, but it turned out better than I thought," said Coloradoan Tim Shirley, whose experience includes a National Western Stock Show buckle from 2009. "There are a lot of good guys (here) that are wanting and trying and have heart. The more education you can (gain), the better it is going to help you in the long run."

"You can see their confidence grow after you watch them get on the spur boards or a few horses," commented Seth Hardwick of Laramie, Wyo. "You can tell they start wanting to get on (and) you can tell that they feel they are getting better."

"It is awesome to be able to watch them learn and pick up on the things we are teaching them and use them," added Caleb Bennett of Utah. "Having more than one instructor at a school is a great idea. Everyone is going to see something different. I think that's half the reason for the night and day difference some of these guys (have shown)."

"It's been good," summed up Colorado cowboy Zach Curran about the weekend. Curran returned from a serious neck injury to compete again in 2012, and enjoyed helping out with the school. "There are a lot of guys with a lot of try and if they just keep going and keep working in the basics, they'll get it figured out. I hope that they had fun and learned something and, I guess, that they learned enough to keep going and know what to work on down the road."

Even though the school itself passed quickly, it took months of behind the scenes work to make it happen.

"We've been planning this for probably six or seven months," revealed Chuck Colletti, Casey's father, about putting the project together. "All the prep work and behind the scenes, I've been helping him do that and Shelly (Casey's mother) has been helping too. I had a bunch of buddies help me haul all the bucking horses here on Friday. It just takes a lot of time and a lot of people," he said with a smile. "You've got to get everything together; the horses and the planning with the food and all that stuff."

Asked about watching his son become successful in rodeo as well as take the lead in teaching others about bareback riding, the elder Colletti's reply was as happy as his grin.

"It's pretty exciting for me," he answered with pride. "Now I'm living through him. I never was at the level he is at, so this is just outstanding for me."

It appears Mr. Colletti could be grinning for years to come.

"We're going to try and do it every year," stated Casey about the weekend bareback school. "I want to try to help out the best I can … because I live, sleep, eat and breathe rodeo. We definitely have the best of the best (instructors) and want to help out young and up coming guys." ❖