Gerardo, 28, started riding bulls when he was 17 on his family’s ranch in Chihuahua, Mexico. He says, “My Dad and family have a ranch and so I got involved in ranching and the cowboy life. My older two brothers rode rodeo too, so that’s kind of how I got started. Like everybody, you start doing it for fun. Some guys get more interested and serious about it, they start doing good. I would say that every one of the guys who ride in the PBR is like that. You start doing it and you have dreams about turning into a big time pro.” Venegas describes the level of the PBR in relation to other professional sports this way: “PBR is the top of the chain in bull riding. To make the Built Ford Tough World finals and have a chance to be the world champion those are the two accomplishments that guys shoot for. It’s like (making it to) the NBA or the NFL.
Success in PBR bull riding depends upon the cowboy staying healthy and in the luck of the draw when it comes to the bull. Venegas says, “You can’t count on just how well you ride. The score is pretty much based on the skill of the bull. If you have a bull who doesn’t perform good, your score isn’t going to be good.” Gerardo says that the unknown factors make it hard to predict just how well he might score at any given event, but clearly for the cowboy, the key is simple—hang on! “You’ve got to stay on, too. If the bull is real hard to ride—a real rank bull; you got to stay on to get a great score. It’s a real humbling sport. This year you can be the world champion and next year out of contention. I mean the bulls don’t read a resume’. You’re not dealing with a team or another competitor where you develop a strategy about what you’re going to do.” he says.
Venegas describes the animal part of the bull riding equation that Conseco Fieldhouse spectators can expect this way: “I will guarantee that every one of the bulls like y’all going to see in Indianapolis, they’ve been bucked before. What makes a good bull is the speed that they have and the harder they kick. The size depends a lot. Nowadays you see a lot of bulls that weigh 1600 pounds average, but there are some bulls that get up to around 2100 pounds. Mostly, the bigger they get; the slower they get. Not always, because there are some big, big bulls that can move real fast. But, most of the bulls that move real fast are kind of small, between 1400 and 1600 pounds. It’s based mostly on the strength of the bull and speed of the bull, pretty much. Most of the small bulls are going to be fast. They’re small, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t going to be hard to ride, or little is easier.”
Gerardo Venegas was riding a comet when he started riding bulls in the PBR. In just his third event in 2003, he won; qualifying him for the coveted World Finals PBR where only the top 45 cowboys get an opportunity to compete. Did winning so soon make it harder for him? He says, “I don’t know, it was a little harder for me. There are a lot of those guys on the PBR tour who spend three or four or five years—a lot of time trying to make the PBR World Finals. I didn’t expect to jump so high so quick. I thought it was going to take me longer. I had just moved to the U.S. when I won the PBR early in ’03. I had just started going to the PBR’s and to make the World Finals and be one of the top 45 guys in the world was kind of hard; but at the same time, it kind of helped me because I started getting more experience at that level.”
Venegas’ quest for the top of the PBR has slowed in recent years due to a string of serious injuries that have forced him to take time off the tour to heal. “That’s one of the things keeping me in and out. I’ve been getting injuries. It’s one of those deals that you have to deal with. In ’03, I made the finals; but in ’04 I sprained my knee real bad and that kept me out. In ’05, I broke my leg real bad. I broke the tibia, the fibia, and the ankle all together. Last year, I turned my knee and I injured my collarbone. You just got to deal with it. Some times you can go on, but it just depends on how bad the injury is. There are some injuries; you can deal with it, but there are some where you just have to wait to let them heal.” Venegas says.
He says that his wounds have healed and that he is ready. He says, “Last year (’07), I started riding real good at the end of the year. Right now I feel real good. It’s all about confidence. You can’t really have a strategy when you don’t know what the opponent might do. You compete with the bull, not the other guys. I feel real good. I’m riding real good. It’s just a matter of time. I just worry about riding and let the rest take care of itself.”
A casual observer might wonder why anyone would take the risks of life and limb to ride bulls in the PBR. Gerardo Venegas says: “It’s pretty hard to say. You know, I love to do what I do. It’s the love for the sport. You ask a freestyle motocross rider why and he’ll say that he loves to do it. It’s the same way I love to ride bulls. I know it’s hard and the toughest part is when you get hurt. You’re not under contract so if you’re not competing, you’re not making any money, but you love it. None of the guys (in the PBR) start doing it for the money. Pretty much all of us, we just started doing it for fun. You get hooked on it. It’s a great sport—a great way of life I think. It’s dangerous, but I’ll take my chances.”
Gerardo prepares mostly by making sure he is top shape. He says that he loves going to the gym. Like most top bull riders Gerardo Venegas is trim and muscular. He and his wife Paloma have one son, also named Gerardo. When not working out or riding bulls, Venegas enjoys horseback riding.
When Gerardo Venegas comes to Conseco Fieldhouse to compete in the O’Reilly Auto Parts PBR Classic presented by Mickey Thompson Tires, expect him to look calm and focused. He gives this simple description of what bull riding is all about: “When it’s time to ride, you’ve got to relax. You know what you’ve got to do, because you’ve been doing it for so long. You cannot anticipate what the bull is going to do. You know he’s going to buck, so you try to stay on. Hold on!”
Discount coupons save adults $3.00 on Friday night seats.
Tickets are priced at $35, $25, and $15. Adults can save $3 on Friday night tickets with a coupon available at all Indiana O’Reilly Auto Parts Locations. The coupon may be used at the Conseco Fieldhouse Box Office and Ticketmaster Outlets. Charge tickets by phone at 317-239-5151.
“Half Price for Half Pints” offers kids’ tickets at a discount.
Kids 12 years of age and under can get $25 and $15 for half price for both nights’ performances at the Conseco Fieldhouse Box Office, Ticketmaster locations, and charge by phone at 317-239-5151.
For general show information visit www.pbrnow.com -- www.familyevents.com or call 317-236-6515.