Cates Healthy and Ready to Go for 2015

PUEBLO, Colo. – During his six-month recovery from shoulder reconstruction surgery this past season, Reese Cates was able to return to some of his passions outside of bull riding.

Normally, Cates would spend his summer months hitting the road in full steam to go compete at Touring Pro Division and other bull riding events all over the United States. This year, though, Cates was forced to stay home after undergoing surgery following his right shoulder injury in Phoenix during the Built Ford Tough Series event in March at the U.S. Airways Center.

While, yes, Cates would rather have been hitting the bull riding trail instead of sitting at home following his fifth surgery of his eight-year career, it did provide him a chance to relax and clear his mind some from the frustration that comes with a sport that is destined to cause injury to one of its participants at some point.

Reese Cates earns 88.25 points on Bad Moon at the 2012 Built Ford Tough Series Mohegan Sun Invitational.

The 25-year-old took the time to head down to the river, go fishing on the lake, spend plenty of time on horseback and catch up with some longtime friends back home.

“During those six months I had off, it was during the summer, and it was the first time in a long time that I had the summer to sit at home and do normal stuff,” Cates said. “I was always doing something to take advantage of the time that I had, that I normally didn’t. It was good. I really appreciated that because, Lord willing, I won’t have another summer where I am not sitting at home doing nothing for five or six years.”

Cates, who is competing in Saturday night’s BlueDEF Velocity Tour event in Bakersfield, California, has remained calm and positive after a tough 2014 season that was hindered by not only the shoulder surgery, but also a right groin injury that he aggravated in his return to competition in Nashville, Tennessee, in August. Cates missed two additional BFTS events because of the pulled groin, on top of the 10 he missed due to the shoulder surgery.

The 2008 Rookie of the Year wound up ranekd 54th in the world standings after competing in 12 BFTS events – his most since 2011 – and posted his third-highest riding percentage (26.67) of his career despite the injury bug that hit him.

“I definitely have stepped up my game as far as my mental training,” he said. “The more I learn and try to work on my mental toughness, the more I realize how weak my mind was. I think a lot of that had to deal with the injuries that I was dealing with. Honestly, I don’t even feel like I had shoulder surgery this year. Tandy (Freeman) fixed me up great and I took those six months off to kind of work on myself and getting better.”

Earlier this month, Cates and Chase Outlaw went duck hunting in Missouri with San Diego Padres pitcher Andrew Cashner, who became friends with the two earlier this year during Spring Training. Cashner also waited in the hospital for Cates when he got hurt in Phoenix.

“Cashner is just an awesome guy,” Cates said. “He took great care of us. We had an awesome time up in Missouri. It was a blast. It was the perfect way to kind of take out the 2014 season and get ready for the 2015 season.”

One way that Cates has tried to remain in shape for the upcoming season, as well as during his rehab, is through his lifelong passion of riding horses. He has been riding horses before he could even walk and received his first pony, Joe Bubba, by the time he was 2 years old.

“You are dealing with an animal and you are on their back in the exact same spot you would be on a bull, I don’t know how it couldn’t help you,” said Cates.

Throughout his life, Cates has always had horses around the ranch to ride and he currently has several horses, including his current favorite, Who Dat.

“Who Dat is definitely my favorite,” he said. “She is an awesome horse and she is bred to be a really good barrel racing horse.”

He also has three horses that two months ago hadn’t even had a halter on them until he began training them. Currently, the 2-year-olds are working horses and, eventually, they will be given a specific job. For now, it is just a matter of slowly teaching them the basics and letting them find what they love and don’t love.

Prior to heading to Bakersfield this weekend, Cates climbed on a couple practice bulls to get ready.

He understands that these BlueDEF Velocity Tour events and Touring Pro Division events can help him earn some points as he looks to work his way back to the BFTS full time in 2015.

“(2014) definitely had a lot to do with injuries, but I am not making excuses because we all have to deal with that,” Cates said. “The good guys come back from it and the rest you never hear from again.

“Hopefully, things will work out in my favor.”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.

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