Like any good parents, Denny and Eileen Thorsell were willing to help their son out with a hobby.
As a student at Highland, Shawn Thorsell was an active member on an Ohio High School Rodeo Team and his parents decided to take their son’s passion a step further.
“We bought a couple of practice bulls for him and from there we started educating ourselves on the bucking bull industry,” Eileen said.
The family did much more than study the business; they turned their Westfield Township ranch into one of the top summer bull riding attractions in the state.
This summer will mark the eighth year of the Buckin’ Ohio event, which brings some of the top riders and bulls from across the country to the Creek Bend Ranch on Garman Road. The second session will be July 25, with two more shows planned for Aug. 22 and Sept. 19.
“We lived on a small farm in Granger and were in the quarter horse business, so moving into cattle was simple,” said Eileen, noting the genetics are similar between the two. “We started getting bulls and raising them to do things when they were young. A lot of people don’t understand what it takes, but we train them how to go in and out of the shoot and see what their capabilities are to buck.
“When we did that, we had about 100 people show up to watch just because of word of mouth.”
From there, Buckin’ Ohio was born.
Despite the recent economic woes, the 100-acre ranch was the place to be at the first show in June. The event drew a record 3,000 people — just 200 short of capacity.
While most attractions are raising their prices due to the financial crisis, the Thorsell family hasn’t changed its prices in three years.
“Both Denny and I came from middle-class families that couldn’t afford to go to baseball games or the circus,” Eileen said. “This is fun for kids and a great experience for the family and we wanted this to be a family friendly event with wholesome entertainment.”
With the recent publicity that the sport has gained on national television, fans from around the state have found their way to the ranch.
“Our first one (eight years ago) drew about 500 and the second was around 800, so we’re excited to have our largest crowd ever,” Eileen said. “But for us to put on a show like this, it’s very expensive and we don’t cut any corners.
“We have such wonderful sponsors and without them it would be difficult to put this together.”
Over the years the event has added different attractions such as pony rides, an obstacle course and even a Western town. Fans can also watch little wranglers test their skills riding sheep in the mutton bustin’ event, along with cowgirls racing against the clock in barrel racing competitions.
But the real draw is the bull riding and Buckin’ Ohio has some of the best around.
The sanctioned event of the Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association brings around 30 riders and about 20 bulls from sub-contractors — many of which are on the Professional Bull Riding tour.
“A lot of the bulls we have are on tour with the PBR, so they’re high caliber and tougher to ride,” Eileen said. “That’s how we get good cowboys, because we know that the bulls are good and we’re not some travel rodeo with the same bulls. This makes the chances better of the rider having a better ride.”
With that in mind, around 19-20 bulls from Creek Bend also take part, but are limited by the Thorsells to how many times they compete.
“We only like to buck our bulls one time,” she said. “People don’t understand that bulls are our livelihood and they are well taken care off, so we don’t want them injured because they’re so valuable.”
The bulls help to keep the pace of the event going, with the help of a pair clowns on hand to distract them.
Bull riding is similar to auto racing. Fans want to see the riders do well and be safe, but also don’t mind seeing a crash — or in this case — someone get bucked off.
“They just like to see some action,” said Lodi resident and rider Brandon Davis, a rookie on the circuit. “The atmosphere is the same that if someone has a great ride the fans start to root for the rider, while if he gets knocked off after one jump out of the box, the fans go crazy.
“It goes both ways.”
Local riders are always a big attraction and Medina County has one of the best in Chance Riley. The Seville resident has brought many area fans to the event and that, along with the national publicity of the sport, has helped Buckin’ Ohio stay at the top.
“We’re excited that we’re growing,” Eileen said. “With the PBR being on national TV, next to NASCAR, bull riding has one of the loyalist followings around.
“Just like we always say, ‘There is not much to do around here … so we have to create our own fun.’ ”
FRIDAY (July 24)
- 4 p.m. – Gates open
- A band, pony rides and a BBQ are part of “Friday Night at the Ranch” promotion. This family-friendly event is free and held each Friday before the main Saturday event.
SATURDAY (July 25)
- 4 p.m. – Gates open. Pre-race events include pony rides, steer head roping and stick horse races. Fans can also visit the Creek Bend General Store and take part in the 50-50 raffle. With July being national Ice Cream month two ice cream eating contests are scheduled.
- 5 p.m. – Registration for Mutton Bustin’
- 5:30 p.m. – Mutton Bustin’
- 7 p.m. – Bull riding starts
- Intermission — Children’s boot scramble and barrel racing
- TBA — Bull riding short go
In July, the ranch also honors America. The honor guard from Company G, 237th Brigade Support Battalion, and National Guard out of Medina will present the American flag.
Bull riding facts
Two or more judges are typically used and each ride is scored on a scale of 0-100 points. Each judge scores the bull from 0-50 points and the rider from 0-50. The combined point totals from both judges makes up the final score.
- The bull rider must ride for 8 seconds.
- The riders must ride with one hand and can not touch the bull with a free hand. If the bull is touched with a free hand, the result is a no score.
- Points are awarded to the bull rider on several key aspects of a ride (constant control, rhythm, balance, timing and the rider’s counter moves and ability to match with the bull’s moves.
- The bull is scored on five things – buck, kick, spin, speed and athletic ability.
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.