Davidson resident Justyce Page, 8, was working rosin into his rope and glove to make them sticky — to help him keep a grip on the rope when riding a calf — at Stegall’s Arena. You want the combination to be sticky, but not so sticky that when you try to let go, your hand gets stuck and keeps you attached to the animal you are trying to get away from.
Justyce went on to ride the calf he drew that night, scoring 72 points and winning second place June 11. The ride moved him to third place in the calf division standings with 144 points and earnings of $120 for the season.
At 13, with pink finger nail polish, and long blonde hair, she doesn’t look like a bull rider, but Landis resident Gracie Huneycutt “has been riding since she could sit up,” according to her mother Kim Webb. Almost every Sunday night, she can be found at Stegall’s Arena along with her four siblings, riding livestock for fame and money.
Gracie has earned many belt buckles for successful rides over the years. She started in Mutton Busting — bareback riding sheep — before she was 4, moving up through the calves, steers and bucking ponies. This year she added junior bulls as she follows her dream of becoming a famous bull rider.
“Being that what I do is a male-dominated sport, I feel really special to be one of the few young girls to be successfully competing,” said Gracie. “Most of the young men are really supportive, but there are some who say I shouldn’t do the sport because I’m a ‘girl’ but I don’t let that stuff get to me, because I love what I do.”
She said her favorite type of riding is steers, for now, because of the success she is currently enjoying. Excited about riding the junior bulls, Gracie admitted that she was a little nervous during her first ride. “A lot of the boys were impressed by my riding and that makes me feel good,” she said.
What she likes best about coming to Stegall’s is, “Getting to compete against the boys and winning the money. It makes the boys pretty mad when a girl wins all the money,” she said. Her advice to other females who might like to compete in the sport is, “to be very confident in yourself and don’t let others bring you down. ... Just do what you do and have fun.”
Gracie competed in the steers and bucking ponies that night, completing a ride on both earning 78 points and winning second place in steer riding while earning 76 points and second place in the bucking ponies division.
The rides put her in third place in the steer standings with 384 points and $155 for the season. She is third in the pony standings with 76 points.
Stegall’s Arena, located on Odell School Road between Concord and Davidson, has been training professional bull riders for more than 26 years. It is the longest running championship bull riding series on the east coast, producing many champions.
Local talent comes to mix it up with riders from all over the country, learning the techniques required to be a professional bull rider.
Davidson resident Jalin Edmond, 16, began riding bulls late in the season last year and is dedicating 2017 as his rookie season. Winning his first belt buckle in October, he is looking to gain more. He said his older brother, Lamont McKnight, a professional bull rider for more than 17 years, serves as his inspiration.
“Lamont gives me tips and tells me where to ride,” said Edmond. His favorite memory was when people said he rode like his brother. “I always look up to my brother, so I try my hardest,” he said.
On this Sunday night, his hardest fell a little short. The bull, No. 3130, threw him shortly after exiting the chute. “The beast got the best of me,” said Edmond. “I rushed it, I didn’t get up on my rope as I needed to,” he said.
The next day Edmond acknowledged that he was a little sore, “but that is the sport. When you beat the beast, you didn’t have any help, it was just you,” he said. “When the beast beats you, there is no one else to blame.”
Despite being thrown, Edmond remains fifth in the amateur standings with 286 points and $160 earned this season.
Even though Edmond played other organized sports growing up in Davidson, he said he has gained more true friends through riding than any other sport. “I love it, you get to show your best and your toughness, and everyone supports everyone else,” he said.
Mary Price is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to go?
Stegall’s Arena has bull riding 7 p.m. every Sunday to Labor Day and is at 3601 Odell School Road, Concord 28027. The admission is $10 each, with kids 10 and younger free.
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