Meet the Member Brecken Tullis
story by Lindsay Humphrey After four years of success in the Young Guns association in Dodge City, Kansas, one thing continues to allude Brecken Tullis […]
story by Lindsay Humphrey
Falling in love with bull riding was easy for Chase Stratford because the older brother he’s always looked up to was hyper focused on it. “I was 3 when I got on my first calf and it was one of my dad’s calves out of a donor cow that he specifically said not to get on,” said the 14-year-old of the fond memory. “My brother just dropped me on him and that’s how I got started.” This older brother is 20-year-old JR Stratford who knows a thing or two about riding bulls even if his approach to getting Chase into the sport was slightly flawed. “I started riding sheep in the HYRA when I was probably 4 or 5, but I never liked riding them because they didn’t buck hard enough.” Chase only stuck it out in the sheep pen for a year before he moved up to calves, but that was also short lived.
“One of my favorite rodeo memories was the year [third grade] that I rode every calf for the entire season in the HYRA. The next year I bumped up to the steer riding and I was actually a year younger than everyone else, but I still came in second in the year end.” Much like his older brother, Chase isn’t afraid of a challenge especially in the form of tough competition, which is always the case in the KJHSRA. “My entire life my brother has bought all my gear and been the one who taught me how to ride bulls. He used to take me to all my rodeos.” Of course, Chase’s parents – Steve and stepmom Saige – are always lending a helping hand too. “My dad and stepmom pay all my entries, but they also travel with me. They even took me to Perry, Georgia, for junior high nationals last summer.”
Taking on the nation’s best bull riders was a great way to finish off Chase’s seventh grade year. Finishing 11th in the world at the YBR Finals was an even better way to kick off his final season with the KJHSRA last August. “That trip was just me and my dad down to Abilene. It was a good time for bonding for both of us.” That was just one of many trips Chase and his dad took on behalf of bull riding. Back in December they found themselves in Las Vegas because JR qualified for the NFR for the very first time. “It was one of the best moments of my life watching him ride at the NFR. He won the third round but broke his ankle in two places during the fourth.” The family headed home a few days later to begin JR’s journey to recovery. “It made me really sad that he couldn’t finish the NFR because he dreamed of that moment his whole life.”
Living just two miles apart, Chase gets to see JR regularly. In fact, JR has a few bulls at home that he uses for weekly practices. Perhaps it’s been at these late-night practices that Chase developed his philosophy on both luck and skill. “I believe in both. You can’t have luck without any grit or try. Luck is a key factor in a lot of things, but it all comes back to the mindset: what you want to do and how you want to do it which goes back to skill.” While Chase definitely knows how to put in the work for success, he also understands the importance of taking a step back sometimes. “When things get tough, I know it’s time to take a break. I went to Arizona for spring break and that really helped. I didn’t ride any bulls, but I did wind up at a rodeo to watch a couple friends. By that point I was itching to ride some bulls. I was ready for Guthrie.”
Going into the border bash mid-March, Chase was tied for first with his good friend Easton Hensley. After taking second and then first at the event, Chase was leading the state by two points. “It felt pretty good to take the lead, but I hope Eason rides all of his bulls the rest of the year just like I’m trying to do.” It’s friendships like this one that makes Chase love the KJHSRA for more than just providing a place to ride bulls. The Skyline Junior Higher hopes to finish out his eighth-grade season with another trip to nationals.
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