CASPER, Wyo. — Casper rodeo-goers take note; participants in the upcoming College National Finals Rodeo will receive some hometown protection.
Casper native and bullfighter Wyatt Mason has been selected to to provide what he called “cowboy protection” for the college athletes during the June 9-15 CNFR at the Casper Events Center.
“Every bull kind of brings different challenges,” Mason said when asked if he has to approach each animal differently. “They’re all kind of mean.”
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Mason said the CNFR selected him to help distract bulls and protect their riders during the rodeo and said he’s excited to have the opportunity to do this in the place he was born.
“This is one of the biggest rodeos,” he said. “To have it in my hometown is pretty special.”
College rodeos do not feature bullfighting as a competitive event, but Mason explained that providing protection for riders is another important form of bullfighting.
His body has taken multiple beatings from bulls, but Mason said its worth it.
“I just feel like it is my calling,” he said.
Mason has dislocated a hip, bruised a lung, broke his wrist and had four concussions, to name just a few of the injuries he’s sustained as a result of bullfighting.
“It definitely hurts,” he said. “It’s like being hit with a baseball bat being swung by a gorilla.”
Mason said he discovered his passion for bullfighting even as a kid.
“I’ve been going to rodeos ever since I could walk.”
With two older sisters participating in rodeo, Mason said he liked to go to dressed up as a bullfighter.
But he said there is a misnomer about the clothes bullfighters wear.
“Bulls are colorblind,” he said.
According to Mason, bullfighters sometimes wear bright colored clothes as a matter of style, adding that the common notion that they wear red to get the bull’s attention is inaccurate.
The key to providing strong protection for riders is learning to notice when a rider is about to fall, Mason added. He said the important thing then is to try to get between the bull and the rider and ensure the bull doesn’t stomp or gore the athlete.
That requires a lot of cardio workouts and “fast-twitch” muscle exercises, the bullfighter told Oil City.
He wears a vest, knee braces and cleats for protection, but no helmet. He said that helmets are more important for riders due to the risk of landing on their heads when tossed from an animal.
“Most shots are down on the legs,” he said of what bullfighters have to watch out for.
Mason began bullfighting six years ago.
“I started when I was sixteen,” he said.
He credited Dona Vold-Larsen, a stock contractor and family friend, with helping him learn his art.
Mason went on to participate in rodeo during one year he spent at Casper College and one year he spent at Dodge City Community College in Kansas.
When asked whether there are some intermediate ways of being introduced to bullfighting, Mason said there wasn’t much else to do but get in the ring and start working with the bulls.
He said he did watch a lot of videos of bullfighting to learn some techniques, mentioning videos of professional bullfighter Judd Napier.
Mason said he does participate in freestyle bullfighting competitions in the summers.
When he’s not doing rodeo, he works on his father’s ranch or for his uncle’s construction company.
Rodeo-goers may see Mason providing protection at CNFR morning, afternoon and evening events.