Any mother of a young boy born after the movie 8 Seconds was released in 1994 probably heard the words “I want to ride a bull someday” leave the mouths of their babes once or twice. Of course that is how childhood dreams begin with someone you look up to and idolize, hoping to be like them one day.
For Carson Kiefer, it was a similar beginning in his youth as he watched the movie telling the story of young cowboy Lane Frost on his journey as a bull rider. Born in 1998, Kiefer knew he wanted to be a cowboy one day.
“Ever since I was little when I watched 8 seconds that got me wanting to ride bulls,” he began. “Then I watched videos from the 2004 NFR (National Finals Rodeo) of Paulo Crimber that we had of him riding and that got me wanting to ride even more.”
Over a year and a half ago, he finally took a leap of faith to go after his dream. Beginning with riding bulls only, Kiefer practiced before taking his seat on a bull that typically weighs over 800 pounds hoping to hang on for the 8-second ride.
When time allowed, he would practice by himself by getting onto a bareback horse.
“Getting onto a horse bareback helps you learn your center of balance,” said Kiefer. “If you get off center, you work to get position again.”
Summers in Iowa typically means county fairs taking place with rodeos as a main evening event. This brings many opportunities to stay busy most weekends for Kiefer to get in more rides. Of course if you want to take it serious, as he does, summer isn’t the only time of year rodeos take place.
“It all depends on how bad you want to do it,” he stated. “I’ve got a couple good buddies and we go in the winter to South Dakota, Oklahoma and Arkansas for inside riding.”
“My first year I started I took the winter off,” he said. “Then it’s like starting all over again. I used to think you had to be in Oklahoma to ride year-round, but then I realized if you want it bad enough you’ll find a way and hopefully one day I can go pro.”
Even with taking the first winter off from riding, Kiefer estimates he’s probably competed in close to 100 events now. With a number that high and knowing the dangers involved as a bull rider, one would assume he has experienced an injury or two along the way.
“Nope, no injuries bad enough that I couldn’t ride,” he laughed as he may have shown some superstitions looking for wood to knock on. “I’ve had multiple buddies with torn muscles and get stepped on, but I haven’t had those issues and have been blessed.”
“Getting hurt is part of it though,” he said. “Ever since I was little I wanted to be a cowboy and you don’t let little setbacks of getting bucked off or getting hurt bother you. You either take time to heal up or you learn to ride with it.”
Even with his dream of being a bull rider, it took some time for others in his life to accept his decision, as worry is a common fear for bull riders loved ones.
“In the beginning, neither of my parents liked it,” Kiefer stated. “After they seen I had a couple good friends that were actually putting work into it and trying to make somewhat of a career out of it they are starting to get alright with it now.”
In the movie 8 Seconds, it touches base on the 1987 PRCA bull of the year named Red Rock. Every year the best riders in the world would be bucked off including the famous Lane Frost. With 309 professional attempts, the famous bull was never ridden before he was retired.
When asked if there was a bull he feared being matched up with he said, “that’s where my faith in God comes in. Sure that bull may have a name but I have faith in God that he gives me the strength to ride it and I don’t have anything to be scared of.”
“That’s part of being a cowboy too,” he continued. “No matter how many times you get bucked off, you get back on. It’s like J.B. Mauney once said and the reason he is so good, he said he doesn’t want the one everybody can ride, he wants the one they say he can’t ride. So if he does ride it then it’s worth more points. You want the hard ones. I try to be that way, sometimes.”
Being just 21 years young, Kiefer is just getting started in the rodeo world. He’s seen success already by qualifying for the finals in different associations including the IRA (Interstates Rodeo Association), URA (United Rodeo Association), BOA (Bullriders of America), the Extreme Bull Riding Tour and this past winter the Marshfield Finals.
While he continues to live his dream, Kiefer hopes to continue riding as long as his body allows it.
“Eventually I hope to start a ranch when either I get too old to ride or too disabled,” he said. “I want to raise cattle and break horses, but we will see how that pans out.”
Kiefer isn’t the only member in the family with the rodeo background. His younger sister Nina barrel races and every so often they ride in the same rodeos. Older brother Clayton and younger brother Chasen both have roping experience but didn’t compete much this past winter.
“My brother Christian has been pretty good at motivating me where I can send him videos and he will take a look at them since he did saddle bronc riding in the past,” Kiefer said. “He picks at them for me.”
When attending a rodeo Kiefer is at, you may hear his name announced for more than one event as he also competes in saddle bronc and bareback riding from time to time as well. While both require the skill of holding on for the 8-second ride, the techniques between a bucking bull and a horse vary.
“A horse bucks quicker but they are easier to track where a bull can belly roll and twist two different directions.”
Even though many may believe jumping onto the back of a bull for a ride is a crazy thing to do, Kiefer reminds himself of a Lane Frost quote of “luck to me is lots of determination, hard work, faith in myself and in God.”
Kiefer doesn’t see his dream as crazy, only his normal reality. Although he does remember two falls ago an event at a bull sale being the craziest moment he’s experienced thus far.
“It wasn’t a sanctioned event, but they were giving away money to the guy who got on the most bulls in two days,” he began. “The other guys had a head start on me but I climbed on 15 head of bulls in three hours. It did me no good, but I got the 250 bucks.”
When traveling to compete Kiefer is generally in the company of good friends also making a go at the rodeo bull-riding world. Justin Jewett, Heath Roberts and Brady Weyers make up his group of main travel companions.
During the workweek, Kiefer stays busy working full time at Shivvers Manufacturing and just finished up a part time job working at the Seymour Community School during evenings. To stay in shape, he wakes up for early morning workouts and runs before heading to work.
“If you want to be good at it, you have to work on your technique and train,” he stated. “You get out what you put in and if you don’t put in the time you won’t go anywhere.”
As anyone that has ever attended a rodeo knows, there are several events a cowboy can enter and compete in. So I had to ask, why bull riding?
“I like the challenge,” he said. “There is a lot of training that goes into it and you can’t over think you just have to react.”
“I’ve learned to lean on God more because you are getting on bulls that are around 1,000 pounds and horses can be just as big so you can’t just depend on yourself.”
Kiefer also strives to look out for others more than himself throughout this journey, “I go to toughen up shows where kids as young as three are there and I can pass on what I know and help them.”
As he continues to practice and prepare for each event he enters this summer, Kiefer feels blessed with the earnings he has received.
“I have to stay humble and stay hungry,” he said. “I’ve noticed in others and myself that once I started riding good I would start slacking off. As long as you stay humble, give God the glory and keep working hard no matter how good or bad, you are the limit to where you can go and the limits are endless.”
“You have to go for what you want and don’t be afraid to make sacrifices and put in the work and by keeping God first, anything is possible.”