Quesnel’s school of hard bucks

Aspiring Quesnel rodeo star Jaxen Kirk learns the bucking trade at Matt O'Flynn's roughstock school. (Karen Powell photo)
Matt O'Flynn, retired Quesnel bullrider, now teaches the roughstock craft to young and old at his annual bullriding school. (Karen Powell photo)
An aspiring rider named Deegan comes out of the chute on a training bull at Matt O'Flynn's roughstock school in Quesnel. (Karen Powell photo)
Elizabeth Puhallo gets a go-round on a training bull at Matt O'Flynn's roughstock school in Quesnel. (Karen Powell photo)
A young rider named J.J. in flying chaps gets his turn on a training bull at Matt O'Flynn's roughstock school in Quesnel. (Karen Powell photo)

Matt O’Flynn envisions the day Quesnel has at least five in the Top 50 of the Bull Riders Canada standings. There were two, last year (Eric O’Flynn and Clay Gordon) and he’s working at bringing more into that exclusive ring.

His mission is an annual one. It starts in winter in a classroom. Ten students did eight classes of bullriding theory and indoor groundworks without animals. It culminates each year in April with Matt O’Flynn’s Roughstock School, where the classroom becomes Alex Fraser Park’s rodeo arena and it opens up into a full rookie romp, coming out of the chutes for real on the backs of beginner-level but nonetheless snot-and-adrenaline bucking beasts.

“We had 27 butts on bulls, this year,” said O’Flynn which is a few more than ideal, but the demand was so strong. He’s contemplating running two of the three-day live workshops. “This brainchild of mine was about working with the kids for hours, each, not minutes,” like he has experienced with bullriding schools in his own past.

The oldest of these students was 39 and the youngest, in his second year at the school, was 11 years old. Most were from the Quesnel area, but there were also students from the Lower Mainland, and an exchange student from Paris name Theo who could only speak French but still “actually got a bull covered, he rode a bull for the full eight seconds, which was huge, I couldn’t believe it,” said O’Flynn. “We bucked, altogether, more than 200 times over the three days.”

He explained that the bulls were not as aggressive by design “because you don’t learn by only holding on for one second.”

There are a number of Bull Riders Canada events coming up this bullriding season around B.C., including the main event at the Billy Barker Days rodeo activities here in Quesnel. The roughstock skills learned at O‘Flynn’s school apply to bullriding, saddle bronc and bareback riders, so there could be a number of ways that his students satiate their thirst for animal adventure.

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