PUEBLO, Colo. – There was never a shortage of life lessons for Jesse Byrne growing up in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
The Dickies® Bullfighter basically participated in a daily bull fighting school with his dad, Ryan, always sharing advice or taking him out into the family backyard to practice the craft whenever the aspiring bullfighter wanted to.
Jesse also had the help of his older brother, Bo, and cousin, Scott, to answer any questions or concerns he ever had about stepping foot inside an arena with a 2,000-pound bucking bull.
Most of all, Jesse was also taught very quickly in his early teens that the most important aspect of bullfighting was to keep everyone safe.
Bullfighting wasn’t about making a flashy, highlight-reel save or about the arendaline rush.
Instead, his number one priority had to always be keeping the riders safe.
That is why Jesse will make it a priority to teach that exact lesson this week to the five aspiring bullfighters attending the Fourth Annual Luke Snyder and Jesse Byrne Bull Riding and Bull Fighting School in Prince Albert on Wednesday and Thursday.
“You have to be concerned with everybody because they are the ones that will be responsible for all of the riders,” Byrne said. “It is not a position that they want to be in whether they know it or not. A young bullfighter wants to get hired. That is there whole thing. They figure they have gone through basic training and now it is time to get a job, but all of a sudden you get a job and you are in a position where you are responsible for a lot of people’s livelihoods, basically. If you are not ready, it is likely to be a disaster.”
Jesse Byrne takes a hit from Skid Row Joe after Ben Jones scores 85 points in Round 3 of the 2015 PBR BFTS Anaheim Invitational in Anaheim, California.
Therefore, one of the first things Jesse will do on Wednesday is to get to know the bull fighters attending his camp. Some may be newcomers to the sport, while others may have five to six years of experience and will be looking to fine-tune their skills.
“I guess the main thing is just to see first and foremost where they are at and kind of lead them in the direction that they are trying to get themselves to,” he said.
Regardless of their experience levels, Byrne wants them to walk away with the skills to succeed.
“Ultimately, it is having the moves in your arsenal to be able to have a bull come at you, read the play and make the adjustments to get out of the bull’s way and have everybody walk out of there safely. You protect the rider and you protect yourself.”
Ryan and Bo will help Jesse coach the bullfighters, while Tanner Byrne, the No. 22 bull rider in the world standings, and Snyder will lead practice sessions for roughly 25 bull riders at Max Clunie Coliseum.
Like previous years, the bull riders and bullfighters will have access to video to review any mistakes they are making during the two days.
“We will start out on the ground,” Jesse said. “The riders will spend their time on the Mighty Bucky or whatever to simulate their end of things. We will do some stuff with a wheel barrel to simulate the bull’s angle. It is just to show them how a bull’s going to turn. If you do make that first move, get back into that pocket. You are in that safe spot where they can’t get to you and that is essentially what it is all about.”
Once the bullfighters go through some practice drills and get in a groove, Jesse will then take them into the arena with a live bucking bull.
This is where Jesse can then really see what each bullfighter has to offer when they are faced with the real deal.
“The next step is a big one because now you are going out into the arena,” Jesse said. “Right then and there it puts you through the test mentally. It is one of those things where in those two days, maybe within the first hour even, you realize this is something you definitely want to do or not. You see that keen eager side come out in them and they want to just learn and see what it is about.
“There is no better way to learn something than putting yourself in there. It is hard to put it into words about how to go about things. Like I said, a lot of it is trial and error and getting in there for them to feel it themselves.”
Jesse, who is the first Canadian to fight bulls at the Built Ford Tough World Finals, still remembers standing along the fence line at his dad’s bullfighting schools as a kid.
“I would sit there and take it all in,” Jesse said. “I was kind of living in a daily camp. I grew up kind of watching my dad do schools. He put on schools for years and I remember going to those from when I was like 10 until the time I was 15.”
Following the two-day school, Jesse will get to showcase his skills at a live event during the Clunie Cooper PBR Touring Pro Division event on Friday and Saturday at the Art Hauser Centre.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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