PUEBLO, Colo. – Even at 12 years old, Mason Lowe was looking for the rankest bull to get on.
The aspiring bull rider didn’t find any enjoyment making easy work of steers and junior bulls. For Lowe, boredom would set in whenever he competed against lower-level bulls. They were too predictable for him.
Lowe wanted to face bulls that would aggressively try to rip him over the front end or whip him off the side like the PBR bulls he saw on television.
The Exeter, Missouri, bull rider still wanted that challenge and chose to compete at the amateur level as he got older instead of riding at high school rodeos. At 15 years old, Lowe was hitting the summer amateur trail like a seasoned pro throughout the Show Me State.
It was impressive for a teenager who didn’t have bull riding mechanics in his DNA, which showed in his lack of polish when he nodded his head. Instead, it was grit and fearlessness that helped Lowe develop his own riding style that would eventually carry him to the Built Ford Tough Series level.
If you had to describe his style, it was simple: fight to make 8 seconds at all costs.
Lowe’s unpolished style came with a cost, though, as he has developed a chronic elbow injury that has followed him throughout his young career. This year, his second on the BFTS full time, has been no different.
“Hell, I would get on those big bulls when I was 13,” Lowe said. “I would ride everything, and then I would move up to juniors and enter those. I just kept going up. I thought I could ride them all. It hurt myself more than it really helped myself I guess.”
The mentality helped him succeed, but success came with a price. Lowe had developed a tendency as a young bull rider to lean back and extend his elbow instead of fighting to the front and limiting the strain on his elbow while attempting those rank bulls.
His body wasn’t fully developed, and getting on those stronger bulls put added strain on his elbow.
To this day his elbow still isn’t 100 percent. That combined with tearing cartilage in his riding arm at the RFD-TV’s THE AMERICAN SEMIFINALS in February has limited him to 12 qualified rides in 38 attempts on the BFTS.
Regardless, he is still ranked 16th in the world standings despite missing three of the past six BFTS events, and he is also on pace to set a career-high in qualified rides after going 12-for-38 in his rookie season last year.
The 22-year-old young gun was so beat up at the end of May that he turned down an invitation to compete at the Young Guns Challenge at J.W. Hart’s BlueDEF Tour event in Decatur, Texas, on June 4.
Lowe knew he needed time off to rest and recover for the upcoming second half. That was the plan at least, but he simply couldn’t take staying at home very long.
Once he started going to amateur bull ridings, his summers were always built around traveling with his hometown buddies. At 18 years old, Lowe kept that tradition going and really didn’t mount a full push at qualifying for the BFTS until 2014.
He made his BFTS debut in Thackerville, Oklahoma, in 2012 and then competed at two more events in 2013 before earning a spot among the Top 35 last season.
Unable to take staying home, Lowe decided to return to his roots this summer and compete at some amateur bull riding events this month that 2006 World Finals event winner L.J. Jenkins has hosted.
“I never have taken a break and kept it,” Lowe said. “I make it about a month. I have been on the road so much that I can’t sit still in one spot. So I have to go somewhere. I will be like, ‘Well, I am good enough to go.’
“I will go when I am not really good enough to go and make it work.”
Problem is, a third injury to his riding arm has put a dent in his summer plans.
Lowe had just finished up a qualified ride on Cowtown Rock in Forsythe, Missouri, two weeks ago when he heard a crunch in his right hand. He was trying to dismount from the bull when his hand got stuck in his bull rope and Cowtown Rock made a belly roll motion.
“I got my rope really sticky and it was kind of hot,” Lowe said Tuesday morning. “I tried to jump off into my hand and that didn’t happen. He rolled me into my hand and something crunched. It has been swollen up and has a knot on it. It ain’t broke. I probably stretched some ligaments or stuff.”
Lowe tried to compete at the Binford, North Dakota, Touring Pro Division event this weekend to no avail and has finally decided that he needs a summer of rest.
“I never really had a break,” Lowe said. “Ever since I was 15 I had been going every week of the summer. I never really had a break to sit there and heal up and relax a little bit.”
Lowe won’t use his injuries as an excuse for bucking off, but he admits that maybe he can become more consistent if he isn’t as worried about his elbow/wrist – and now hand – if he takes the next month and a half off.
“My elbow seemed good,” he added. “My wrist didn’t hurt, but I wasn’t really getting on anything that tested me or anything like that. I am feeling good. My hand was just a freak deal trying to get off and I couldn’t get off the damn thing.”
He had been hoping to use the summer months to regain his confidence and prepare for a strong second half push, beginning with the Music City Knockout on Aug. 19-20 in Nashville.
Still, a healthy Lowe could become dangerous in the second half.
He won the first event of his career this year at the Ty Murray Invitational with a 3-for-4 performance, which he capped off with a 90-point ride on Brutus in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
“Albuquerque was kind of a freak deal I guess,” Lowe said. “I wasn’t doing anything (riding wise) before then. I hurt my wrist and every time I got off it hurt. I wasn’t really pressing to get on anything because it hurt so damn bad.”
Two months earlier, he had ridden SweetPro’s Bruiser for 91 points during the Built Ford Tough Championship Round in Oklahoma City before he injured his wrist.
Lowe quietly leads riders 23 years old or younger with a 42.86 percent riding percentage in the championship round.
The problem for Lowe, who trails world leader Kaique Pacheco by only 1,212.83 points in the world standings, has been becoming consistent in BFTS long rounds.
He has qualified for seven championship rounds in 13 events.
“When I get on those long round bulls, I feel like I am just there to ride them. That is the main reason why I am getting lazy and falling off,” Lowe said. “There is no reason to be falling off any of those long-round bulls. I know I can ride those bulls. I think I have been just hurt and tried to be conservative on my elbow. I need to quit thinking more than anything.”
A little more focus in the long rounds and healthy riding arm may do the trick.
“I think it is going to help me a lot to come back and feel kind of fresh instead of being sore every morning when I get up,” Lowe said.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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