For Colorado man, bulls become family business after an injury ended his riding career
January 9, 2016
When Ty Rinaldo was a kid, he would ride any of the cattle he could on his father's ranch and try to get them to buck, whether they wanted to or not.
By 1993, he was in the top 15 professional bull riders in the country, though he was still in his twenties.
Then the accident happened that ended his career.
Rinaldo was taken from the arena after an accident with a bull during competition by Flight for Life to a Colorado hospital. He was in coma for a while, and for nearly a year, he couldn't even remember his wife, Nancy.
"It was really, really hard for him to step away from (bull riding)," Nancy said. "As bad as his injury was, it never would have been safe for him to go back and get on another bull."
Continuing to raise bulls, though, was a way for Rinaldo's dream — and himself — to stay alive.
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Through his business, TZ Bucking Bulls in Larkspur, Colo., Rinaldo helps others' childhood dreams of being bull riders come to life by ensuring the animal they draw when they get to an event is going to give them the 8-second ride of their life.
"I kind of look at it like owning racehorses," Rinaldo said. He keeps the bulls on a regimented feed program with grain formulated specifically for TZ Bucking Bulls, exercises them and ensures that when that timer starts, they'll be able to perform in that pivotal eight seconds. "Just like any human athlete, (exercise) increases injuries and helps them do their best as a bucking bull. And the rest is up to them."
This wasn't just a backup plan, though. This was something Rinaldo had planned for since his dad first made him a bucking chute when he was a kid. He bought his first bulls in college to train for competition. It was always the goal for Rinaldo to train his own bulls.
This year, one of Rinaldo's bulls, the 1400-pound Page Break, qualified for both the PBR world finals and the NFR. Though Rinaldo said he isn't the biggest bull, he's got a huge heart and loves bucking. Another one of his bulls also qualified for the PBR World Finals.
Rinaldo works full-time as a firefighter, and when he's at the station for 48-hour shifts, it's up to his family to take the reins. Rinaldo says he's lucky his family and his animals get along so bullishly.
Nancy spends at least a half-an-hour feeding the bulls some days, then the same amount of time texting pictures of the bulls to her husband and giving them loving scratches with her long nails.
Though Rinaldo still loves the sport that gave him his start, he's glad neither of his sons, Tanner and Tucker, wanted to get on the back of a bull.
The boys help, though. They feed, water and exercise the bulls that end up at some of the largest events in the country, like the PBR World Finals, National Finals Rodeo and National Western Stock Show.
She laughs when she says her husband always says he feels sorry that his family has to take on some of the duties with the bulls.
"Don't tell Ty, that's like the highlight of my day when I get to go out and do chores," she said. "(The bulls) are our pets, they're just like family members. They might be a little bit larger in size, but gosh, if we could bring them inside, we would."
This year, Rinaldo will take 16 bulls for 41 outs to National Western. His family spent the week after Christmas testing for disease and doing health checks, preparing his herd for a big week.
When he's getting the bulls ready for events like this, he thinks about how far TZ Bucking Bulls has come. It's a lot of work, and he couldn't do it without Tanner, Tucker, Nancy or the bulls themselves, he said.
"We just got a nice set of bulls that are ready to go about anywhere," he said. When he sees one of his bulls do a good job, that's the payoff. "It makes it all worth it." ❖