Ride by Feel

by Siri Stevens

Contact: Siri Stevens | info@therodeonews.com 

fb1_Taylor_SMS_8212Taylor Howell, from Adon, Calif., outside Los Angeles, heard about the IFYR through an old world champion, Bill Cameron. The bareback rider did his research and decided to head east and give it a try. He got on his first bareback horse a little over a year ago at a high school rodeo. “I drew a big old stout horse and was upside down after four seconds. She launched me 13 feet up and every which way but good. From then on it’s been a work in progress,” he said. “I take something positive from every horse.”

Taylor relies on his fellow rough stock riders to set his rigging and help him get down the road. He lost his vision to a rare retinal cancer at the age of two and has been legally blind ever since. “It’s all done by feel and hearing,” he said of his routine behind the chutes and life in general. “I memorize where everything is in my bag.” Once his rigging is set, he can take it from there. “I can feel the horse and he knows I’m there. Everything else is about getting comfortable.” Taylor believes that the inability to see is an advantage once the gate is open. “Once that horse leaves, you’ve got to be lifting on the rigging to feel the horse,” he explained. “You get on some dirty horses, and you can get faked out if you can see.” The most dangerous part of the ride is the dismount. “I think the toughest thing, and that goes for everybody, whether you can see or not, is getting off. Everything is happening at once. The pick up men are good about talking to me the whole time about when to get off. But I’ve been hung up, kicked in the head, and thrown in the fence.” He is helped out of the arena by his fellow contestants and always ready to ride again. 

Taylor was raised around trail horses, and grew up riding colts. “You ride with your legs,” he said. He had been around rodeo through his uncles and cousins and has done some roping, relying on a bell to hear where the calf is. Taylor knew he wanted to get on bucking horses, and picked bareback over saddle bronc based on the cost to start. “A rigging cost less, and once I got on my first one, I was told I was a natural at it and it’s starting to work out good.” He took second at a recent rodeo, riding for a score of 71.

He made contact with another bareback rider through Facebook who was blind in one eye. Brad Gower became his mentor and brought him to Oklahoma where he became friends with Willie Clyde McKinney and Ben Meek, two IFYR contestants. The three have become instant friends. “We met him and he changed us,” said Clyde. “I thought you had to see to ride, now I know it’s all about feel.”

The three are heading to Connors State College in Warner, Okla. in the fall to rodeo and further their education. Jacob Lawson, rodeo coach for Connors State College, has welcomed Taylor to the team. “He seems like a really nice young man. We’ve had a couple kids go through our horse program that are visually impaired and he will start this fall.”

Rodeo has brought Taylor from California to Oklahoma. He has not let his lack of vision stop him from achieving his dreams. “I’m looking forward to this summer with these two”  

“He’s going to change the way people look at a rodeo career,” concluded Clyde. “Everybody can do something in the sport of rodeo.”

Taylor agrees. “Looking back now, I wouldn’t change anything.”

Shawnee Youth Rodeo International Finals Youth Rodeo 2014 Top 15 in GO 1 (Incomplete)

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