REXBURG, Idaho – By Ted Harbin – Garrett Smith’s return to bull riding’s elite is complete.
After missing a portion of the 2018 season – and last year’s National Finals Rodeo – Smith proved his point last week by winning the first round of his series at RodeoHouston with a 93-point ride on Lyndal Hurst’s Yellow Hair. It helped propel the Idaho cowboy into Houston’s semifinals, which take place March 13-14.
“I’ve been wanting to get on that bull for a long time, and I finally got on and made it work,” said Smith, the 2017 Canadian Professional Rodeo Association bull riding champion who spent a portion of that campaign atop the world standings before suffering a knee injury at the NFR. “He’s been around longer than I have, and it all worked out.”
The ride was just the next step for the Idaho cowboy. Injuries were the only reason he didn’t advance to the NFR a season ago. Still, he finished 23rd in the world standings.
“I got hurt in the third round of the (2017) NFR,” he said. “I finished the finals, then had surgery in January. I returned way too early. I got on in Logandale (Nev.), so I waited three months and was supposed to wait six. The first couple went pretty good, so I went on. I went to Cloverdale (British Columbia) in May, and I got stepped on again.
“I had another surgery, then had to wait about a week or so. The bad thing is I got on a roll, rodeoed three months, and the day after I cracked the top 15, broke my pelvis at the Cour de Lane (Idaho) Xtreme Bulls.”
While he didn’t need surgery, he was limited to crutches for six weeks. That caused atrophy in his muscles, so he underwent some physical therapy under the guidance of the Justin Sportsmedicine program, an athletic training system funded by the Justin Boot Co.
“They were awesome,” Smith said of the sportsmedicine team. “They checked all the muscles and knew what wasn’t working. I put me on some stretching using bands. When you’re young and don’t think anything can hurt you, you don’t realize what those muscles do and how they can hurt you. When they quit working, you find out in a hurry.”
He did, which is why he just lingered near the top 15 in the world standings and didn’t move past it. Alas, he is already on the move in 2019. While his 93-point ride was worth $3,000, the confidence it provided was even more valuable.
“Still finishing the year strong and in the top 25 was so important,” Smith said. “Just being healthy is big. It’s pretty cool when you can get off a bull and not hurt. It’s been challenging, trying to figure out how to ride through the pain, then realizing I’m getting on the right track with being healthy.
“Hopefully I’ll be a little smarter in the way I ride and the way I get off and don’t have to go through any more injuries.”