Bucking bulls, an air of danger and a spirit of competition are part of the Professional Bull Riders event coming at 7:30 p.m. Saturday to Intrust Bank Arena. A part of the Touring Pro Division, this event, sponsored by Lucas Oil, is a stepping stone for those wanting to make it to the PBR Built Ford Tough Tour — a premier bull riding series.
While Saturday’s show will include several professional riders, including Liberal resident Kasey Hayes, it also will feature five riders chosen at random from those who have a PBR membership.
“It’s kind of luck,” Hayes said Wednesday. “Some of these guys start riding sheep at 3 and 4, then move to calves. Then they’ll ride steers, junior bulls, and finally full-grown bulls. They get a PBR membership, which gives them a permit to ride. At that point, you can submit to ride at shows like this one, but if you’re not one of the five randomly picked, you have to wait till the draw at the next show.”
The riders aren’t the only ones competing to get onto the Built Ford Tough Tour. The bulls themselves are scored and work their way up in the PBR tours. Since both riders and bulls are scored, they will be paired randomly prior to the event.
Hayes said he is trying to work back into the Built Ford Tough Tour. Hayes broke his leg riding and has been away while recuperating. No stranger to injuries, Hayes has had several comebacks through the years from other injuries — including one that fractured his skull when he was 12.
“That’s when I started wearing a face mask and a helmet,” Hayes said. “My dad said, ‘You either wear the face mask or never ride a bull again.’ I said, ‘Gimme the mask, then!’ ”
When asked if she is ever nervous about the risk involved with riding, Kasey’s wife, Leah, said, “At times.” They met in Cheyenne while Kasey was riding, so he was really her first introduction into the world of bull riding.
“She was a model for Copenhagen when we met. She knew nothing about it, but now she does, including the risks,” he said.
The couple have been married for three years and have a son, Kash, who will turn 3 soon.
In addition to bull riding, Hayes works in oil fields.
“My dad is pretty much my hero,” he said. “He was a bull rider. He retired before I could ever really see him, but I knew it was what I wanted to do. And he was in the oil fields, so I took steps in that direction, too.”
One thing that sets Hayes apart is his co-ownership of the bull R287 Closing Time. Closing Time won first place in a competition last year hosted by Exclusive Genetics and, as a result of that win, is touted as the “winningest bull.”
“There were 300 bulls, and I was told to pick one,” Hayes said. “I did, became part owner, and that was it. The odds of that are so small, I really feel like God blessed me.”
While Hayes has his hands full, he said he always makes time for riding.
“The Wichita event is great. I think it’s the second time we’ve been at Intrust,” he said. “It’s nice because it’s so close, so lots of my family will be there. My in-laws, who are coming in from Georgia for my son’s birthday, will be there, too.”
While there is no required retirement age for riders, Hayes said most seem to retire in their early- to mid-30s, and injury usually plays a role.
“Like I said, I love the Wichita event, but I feel like such an old-timer compared to some of the young ones that will be there,” he said. “I’m 27, but I hope I do this for a long time.”