By: Justin Felisko
April 27, 2017
PUEBLO, Colo. – Kurt Shephard had made his way back to the Built Ford Tough Series locker room inside Chesapeake Energy Arena on Jan. 22 and put away his riding gear.
Shephard felt a sharp pain in his stomach, but he didn’t think too much of it at first.
The 22-year-old decided to try laying down for a few minutes, and all that resulted in was more pain radiating throughout his body.
Therefore, Shephard gingerly stood up and headed across the hallway to PBR Sports Medicine.
Ten minutes later and he was being rushed to OU Medical Presbyterian Hospital out of fear that he had ruptured his spleen.
Dr. Tandy Freeman’s diagnosis was correct, and Shephard wound up spending the night at the hospital.
The good news was Shephard didn’t need surgery.
The bad news?
Shephard had to leave his bull riding rope hung up for two months.
He had broken plenty of ribs and his ankle during his brief career, but never before had he sustained a life-threatening internal injury.
“I was a little bit worried, you could say, because I didn’t know what was going on,” Shephard recalled this past weekend at the Tacoma Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires, about his initial reaction to rupturing his spleen. “It is good now. They looked after, so it was great.”
Tacoma was Shephard’s first BFTS competition since rupturing his spleen attempting to ride Cut the Cord in Oklahoma City.
The Australian Shepherd began his weekend with 83.75 points on Fire Kat for his first ride of the season, but later bucked off Pile Driver (7.92 seconds) and Cooper Tires Semper Fi (2.32 seconds).
“It wasn’t fun (being out), but it is what it is,” Shephard said. “There is nothing you can do about it. You have to heal up and get back after it.”
Shephard had spent one night OU Medical Presbyterian Hospital before being released the next day.
It was the first internal injury of his life, and the first time he ever spent a night at the hospital.
Shephard spent the initial six weeks of his recovery doing “absolutely nothing,” before being cleared to participate in yoga programs and a walking routine.
The Atherton, Australia, bull rider returned to PBR competition on March 25 at the Fresno, California, Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event.
Two weeks later, Shephard placed second at the Milwaukee Velocity Tour event and then earned another runner-up finish at the ABBI Spring Fling Touring Pro Division event in Stephenville, Texas.
“It took a couple of weeks to get going, but the last two weekends I have been feeling real good,” Shephard said. “I have been placing.”
Shephard is currently 45th in the world standings and is trying to qualify for the BFTS full-time after competing in 12 BFTS events in 2016.
The second-year pro trails No. 35 Reese Cates by 125 points.
“It is a long year,” Shephard said. “I want to be in the Top 20 or better. I want to be the best I can be. I am just taking it one bull at a time.
“I want to make the World Finals bad.”
Shephard finished 2016 ranked 40th in the world standings and competed in Round 5 at the World Finals as an alternate rider.
He plans on competing in the United States until June 15. Shephard will then return home for the summer BFTS break and try to earn world points via PBR Australia events before returning to the U.S. toward the end of July.
Shephard, though, hopes to be ranked back on the BFTS prior to boarding his flight home.
He continues that pursuit of the Top 35 Thursday night at the Clovis Rodeo Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event, which begins at 6:30 p.m. PT.
He is slated to face Fremont Street in Round 1.
There are seven riders inside the Top 35 tentatively scheduled to compete in Clovis: No. 6 Derek Kolbaba, No. 10 Joao Ricardo Vieira, No. 14 Cody Teel, No. 16 Cody Nance, No. 17 Marco Eguchi, No. 31 Emilio Resende and No. 34 J.W. Harris.
“I am here to win it,” Shephard concluded. “I want to win every time I get on. I am not here to mess around.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2017 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.