story by Kailey Pickering After pursuing a passion for English jumping for four years, Grace Barnett turned back to her love of rodeo when her […]
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Meet the Member Fernando Morales
story by Lindsay Humphrey
Hailing from Eagle Pass, Texas, Fernando Morales might still be considered a rookie in the game of bull riding but he’s certainly making a splash in the sport quickly. He was introduced to bull riding by his dad, Rickey, who showed him some videos of his time squared up on the bull rope. “That really inspired and motivated me to give it a try and hopefully keep it going in my family,” said the 14-year-old. “I learned the basics at a the Ted Nunce Bull Riding School. But I also gained a lot of confidence there because before that I was pretty negative about my riding. I won the most improved buckle at that school.” Perhaps turning his mindset around is what helped Fernando reach that first rung on the ladder of success.
Before getting into rodeo as a seventh grader, Fernando spent a lot of his time out on the water fishing. The tranquil peace of fishing has definitely helped Fernando learn how to quiet his mind before giving the nod. He said he doesn’t take a lot of time in the chute before he’s ready to go so he won’t have time to think about how things could go wrong. “Any ride can be your last one, so thinking that could be a possibility is scary. I just keep telling myself that I need to ride my bull and get off safely. I clear my mind and nod my head, and whatever happens after that happens.”
Staying healthy is half the battle in this event. A crash landing versus stepping off the bull can make all the difference for these athletes. Fernando recognizes that and works on his dismounts just as much as the rest of his skills. “I’ll get on the barrel to practice and then when I’m done, I’ll pull my rope and get off as fast and safely as I can. Sometimes my dad will get horses out in the roundpen and I’ll get on bareback. He’ll run them around the pen and then when he says to get off, I look over my shoulder and throw my feet backwards.” Fernando is also fortunate enough to have two practice bulls at home that he can ride. He gets on them once or twice every week. His dad always helps, but he also has some fellow bull riders who help out and then jump on to practice also.
Not many other eighth graders ride bulls in Eagle Pass, so Fernando’s rodeo friends come from all over the state. “Last year at a junior high rodeo, I met Tyler Villa and Emmanuel Avalos, who are cousins. My dad started talking to both of their dads and we were petting the steers together; now we’re like brothers.” Both Tyler and Emmanuel are Fernando’s hype men when he needs it most after a hard ride. The same is true for Fernando’s parents. His dad is out in the chutes with him, but his mom (Marysol) sticks to the sidelines. “My mom wasn’t very excited about me riding bulls because she’s afraid the same stuff will happen to me that happened to my dad in the past.”
So far Fernando’s avoided major injuries and he’s really making a name for himself in the AJRA. In early March Fernando rode #48 RedHawk of the K-3 Bucking String to 78 points to win the rodeo. “Everyone was telling me I got the best bull in the whole pen and I thought that sounded good to me. He was a lot like the bull I rode at another AJRA. He turned back to the right hard, but I got him covered.” That’s not even the highest score Fernando’s ever earned, nor is it his biggest win to date. When he first started out, he scored 86 points at an Elite Christian Youth Bull Riding event. “Last year I won region 8 in the Texas Junior High Rodeo Association to go to the finals in Gonzales. I bucked off at 6.5 seconds to win the whole thing. I was upset because it was a bull that turned back but I was also proud of myself because it had just barely learned how to ride bulls.”