On the Trail with Ky Hamilton

by Nicole Jasperson
Black and white close-up of a focused cowboy wearing a hat and a shirt with a wrangler logo.

Since the 2023 National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Ky Hamilton has become a household name. The 23-year-old professional bull rider, originally from Queensland, Australia, rocked the rodeo industry after coming back to win a gold buckle following a serious injury after being bucked off a bull during round five of the finals. Just as shocked as fans, the other competitors were not expecting to see Ky at the round six performance.

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“I know those guys didn’t think I was going to show up and win, and they damn sure didn’t want me to, and I went ahead and did it,” said the four-time National Finals Rodeo Qualifier and 2023 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Bull Riding World Champion.

Ky, who joined the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in 2019, came into the National Finals Rodeo with over $250,000 in earnings in the regular season and started the finals in second place. Hamilton scored an 86.5 in the first round, a 78 in the second, 87.5 in round three, and an 89 in the fourth round of the NFR. 

Still riding the high from his recent success, Ky drew the bull Bales Hay’s MAGA, owned by Honeycutt Rodeo, for the fifth round. During his ride, Hamilton’s head collided with the bull, rendering him unconscious. Fans and athletes watched as he was carried out of the arena on a stretcher and taken to University Medical Center Trauma Center in Las Vegas, where it was discovered he had suffered a concussion as well as injuries to his ribs and lungs. 

Due to the severity of his injuries, medical professionals recommended he sit on the sidelines for the following rounds of the rodeo. However, the cowboy had different plans.

“The whole time I was in the hospital, I knew I was coming back,” Ky said. Although he wanted to immediately return to the rodeo, he said he waited for a doctor to review any changes in his lungs the next morning before actually leaving the hospital. 

“There was no doubt in my mind that as long as there was nothing worse with my lung, I was going to be riding,” said Ky.

Not only did Hamilton return for the next performance, he tied for third place with 85.5 points and took home over $15,000 in round six alone. During round seven on Wednesday night, he was the sole rider and had a $99,000 payday. He continued his winning streak in the following days, earning over half of a million dollars overall in addition to a world championship title.

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“I showed that I came there to win, and nothing was getting in my way,” said Ky.

Although Hamilton has collected numerous wins in both the United States and Australia, he said the countries vary greatly when it comes to the rodeo industry. 

“It’s a hell of a lot bigger,” Ky said about American bull riding and rodeos. He said that events are more spread out in Australia and have a smaller payout. Because of this, he said people in Australia must work a day job rather than travel full-time from rodeo to rodeo, which is a common practice for American cowboys and cowgirls.

“Over there, you only get to go to about one rodeo per weekend, and there’s one performance, and that’s it,” Hamilton said. He also said that the stock and competitors of Australia are not on the same level of difficulty as the ones he has seen in the United States. 

“Everything’s just on a smaller scale over there,” he said. 

Ky competed for the first time in America at the age of fifteen, and a few years later, the bull rider decided to move from Australia to the United States to rodeo full-time. He now resides in Texas and travels to compete in rodeos across the nation. In 2023, Hamilton won rodeos in Texas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, North Dakota, Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

With his successful 2023 season ending, Ky is now focused on the year ahead. 

“It’s the same every year; just try to win a world title… I damn sure want to do it again,” he said. Ky said another goal he has for this year is to ride Bales Hay’s MAGA, the bull that cost him round five and sent him to the hospital.

“He sure got the better of me, so I’d like to get even with him,” Hamilton said. 

Ky plans to return to the arena in January 2024, sharing that he hopes to ride in Fort Worth, Texas and Denver, Colorado. Although he will be back on the road, he will be missing his travel partner, Stetson Wright, who is out due to a hamstring injury sustained at the NFR in December. 

Despite the numerous injuries and Stetson’s absence, Ky will be continuing his chase for another gold buckle and won’t be throwing in the towel anytime soon.

Editor’s Note: Ky was also featured in the November 2020 Edition of “On the Trail” by writer Siri Stevens  

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