ONTARIO, Calif. – Tyler Harr let out a sigh and just said, “Horrible,” when asked how his body was feeling following a long, grinding 2015 season that featured torn ligaments in both knees, fractured ribs and a worsening hip condition.
Regardless, there he was inside Citizens Business Bank Arena on Saturday with a five o’clock shadow and an attitude that was trying to be more positive than negative after failing to finish inside the Top 35 of the world standings in 2015.
Deep down he knew since the beginning of August that his body was in rough shape. He knew he was changing his riding style following his first leg injury – a torn right PCL in June at a Touring Pro Division event in Binford, North Dakota. Yet when the phone rang for the start of the stretch run of the 2015 Built Ford Tough Series, how could he back out of competition with so much on the line?
Harr wanted to qualify for the 2015 Built Ford Tough World Finals more than anything else. He wanted to finish inside the Top 35 and guarantee himself at least five automatic qualifiers for the BFTS in 2016.
Therefore, he packed up his gear and gritted his way to a career-best sixth place finish in Biloxi, Mississippi.
After that, Harr would rather forget the rest.
A 2-for-16 slump over the remainder of the regular season doomed him and he failed to qualify for the World Finals, where he did eventually go 0-for-2 as an injury replacement in Rounds 4 and 5.
He concluded the year 42nd in the world standings.
Instead of celebrating a career-best season on the BFTS, the second-year pro was standing in the locker room in California right back where he was at the beginning of 2015.
“I just don’t want to start over,” Harr said. “My other job besides riding bulls is shoeing horses. Surgery doesn’t go real well with that lifestyle. Going without any source of income for that long would be pretty tough. I honestly like going to bull rides and I don’t know how I would feel staying home for a couple of months.”
Harr realizes that may have to be the case in 2016. Both of his knees need to be surgically repaired, and he needs to get an MRI done to analyze how serious his hip injury may be.
That is what made his 84.5-point ride on Mayday in Round 1 so valuable on Saturday.
The Round 1 win didn’t garner him any points toward the world standings, but the ride propelled him to a fifth-place finish overall and gave him 15 world standings points.
Harr hopes he can earn enough points, or better yet, a BFTS exemption via a BlueDEF Tour victory, next week in Bakersfield, California, to earn an alternate spot for the Built Ford Tough Series in January.
He may decide to get surgery sooner rather than later, but he first wants to see how things play out in November.
“I will go to Bakersfield and then I will get an MRI on my hip,” Harr said. “I will then get some work maybe done on my knees. I won’t ride again until the first of the year. Hopefully, I come in and steal some points and get a good jump on things. If I don’t get the work done, at least I will have a month of not getting on.”
Harr still doesn’t want to pin his second-half struggles on his injuries. He knows the torn ligaments played a role in his lack of performance, but he also feels like he let opportunities slip away.
For every moment where he failed to kick loose, there is an instance where he could have gritted his way to the 8-second mark only to come up just short.
In Thackerville, where he sustained the fractured ribs, he was bucked off twice past 6 seconds.
“There was nothing in me that wanted to sit out for 12 weeks and miss the Finals,” Harr said. “I had set that goal, and I didn’t think a knee injury could keep me from achieving that, and there is a stubborn part about me that doesn’t think they did. I let a lot of good opportunities go.”
There were moments the pain in his legs and hips was so great that it would bring him crumbling to his knees at home in Arkansas.
Following the Finals he received PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma) injections in his hips, knees, wrist and elbow.
Still, Harr refuses to let injuries keep him away from the arena. Taking a break isn’t in his blood, even if that means leaving some blood behind at an event.
Ever since he was 15 years old hitting the semipro trail with older veteran riders in the Southeast, Harr has kept his mouth shut tighter than the grip on his bull rope.
“Some of the guys I traveled with were hard knockers and road warriors,” Harr said. “Their mentality was they might not ride as good as some of the guys, but they could out-rodeo them. Go down the road harder and get on more bulls. That is kind of the mentality I took. I don’t ride clinically correct, but being tough is the only other option.”
He admits 2015 took a toll on him mentally as well, even as much that the idea of retirement popped into his head.
At the moment, Harr doesn’t want to set any goals for 2016. He wants to just finish things in Bakersfield before looking into a plan for his body that will benefit him the most next year.
“I am not making any predications,” he said. “It all depends on these next two weeks how things go. That will determine my approach on what kind of work I get done. As of right now, I want to do good in Bakersfield and get a good jump on the points and rest for the new year and come back.
“I won’t be 100 percent, but at least I will be fresher.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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