Meet the Member
story by Lindsay Humphrey Basically every event that Gracie Lewis can enter in the OKJHSRA is what she’s entered the entire season. Aside from the […]
story by Lindsay Humphrey
Sometimes a Hershey’s bar won is much sweeter than any belt buckle, but not always. When Colten Tharp entered his first mutton busting event at the Woodward Elks Rodeo 9 years ago, he happened to win both for his first-place finish. At the time, Colten was 6 years old and now the Goltry, Oklahoma, bull rider is finishing up his second and final season with the OKJHSRA. “I have a lot of friends who ride bulls and broncs in junior high rodeo, so it’s a lot of fun to hang out with them and then get on some steers too,” said the 15-year-old. “I’m one of only two bull riders in eighth grade, so I’m going to miss a lot of friends next year when I’m in high school rodeo and they’re not yet.”
What Colten won’t miss about junior high rodeo are the inherently smaller animals. He’s more than ready for the full-sized bulls. “Going to bull riding schools put on by guys like Cody Custer, they all taught me to ride big bulls and I’ve done pretty well on those so far. I feel like riding bigger bulls helps me get better.” Colten plans to spend the summer entering open rodeos close to home so he’s ready to go for high school in the fall. However, he hopes he’ll also be making his first trip to junior high nationals this summer. “I was one spot away from nationals last year, so I want to try and seal the deal this year.”
Even though Colten’s been riding sheep, calves, steer and bulls a majority of his life, he hasn’t had the big, confidence boosting win yet. “I’ve won some things in different associations, but I think that big win will come when I get into high school and start riding those bigger bulls consistently.” Bull riding is a family sport for Colten who’s dad, Josh, and uncle, Tommy Tharp, first introduced him to the event. “Getting on sheep was scary at first, but now it [riding bulls] feels natural to me. I like the adrenaline rush about it and it takes my mind off things. I’ve met a lot of good people through rodeo.”
It’s taken awhile to hon in his mental game, but Colten has a game plan that seems to work well for him. “When I crawl over the bucking chute, I’m not thinking about anything except for my ride. I pray before every ride and that helps me calm down.” Always right there on the rail before the gate swings wide is Colten’s dad. The two spend a lot of time together rodeoing. “It’s always fun going to rodeos with just me and my dad. I like hanging out at rodeos with my dad so we can have some guy time together.” At every event, Colten’s dad is right next to him behind the chutes long before it’s time to ride. “I like that my dad is back there talking to me and getting me pumped up to go. Before every ride, he tells me that he loves me and to ride like I know how to.”
It’s not often that anything shakes Colten’s concentration when he’s about to ride, but watching a friend get in a wreck certainly does the trick. “About four years ago my friend and I were at a finals when he got on just before me. He got stomped and got hurt. I think that’s the hardest part about the sport is to watch someone get hurt and then have to ride right after them.” Luckily for Colten, his injuries have been fairly minor. Other than the usual bumps and bruises, he’s separated his clavicle and had a few concussions. “I put all my faith in God and just let Him put points where He wants them, so I just ride the bull that I draw. My uncle and my dad told me that’s what they did before they rode or roped and it’s stuck with me ever since.”
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