Bella Coola’s Isaac Mack, 19, is sitting at the top of his game in Bull Riders Canada National Standings after some great scores in his first rodeos of the year. His last four rides combined gave him a total of 450 points, and although it’s early in the season Mack is feeling good.
“I’ve been doing good and it’s a great feeling to start the season like this,” Mack said. “I had two good eight second rides and those scores moved me into the top spot for now.”
Mack, who has been riding since he was 15, was born and raised in Bella Coola but now calls Kamloops home.
“I started out cow riding in the Bella Coola Rodeo,” said Mack. “When I moved out here to finish high school I took up high school rodeo, which is steer riding and riding younger bulls.”
Mack has since moved into the rodeo circuit fairly competitively, averaging one rodeo a weekend throughout the summer months and as many as he can get to before then. He’s been riding in Alberta, which is where he scored enough points to move him into top spot, and, when he’s not working, he takes in as many rodeos as he can.
“There’s a few bull riding circuits you can ride but I’ve been mostly focused on Bull Riders Canada so far,” he explained. “Their circuit goes all across Canada and I’m trying to get out to more rodeos further east this year as I haven’t been out there yet.”
Bull riding is not for everyone. The origin of the sport can be traced back directly to its roots in Mexican contests of equestrian and ranching skills now collectively known as charreada. American bull riding has been called “the most dangerous eight seconds in sports.” To receive a score, the rider must stay atop the 1,800 lb animal for eight seconds with the use of one hand gripped on a bull rope tied behind the bull’s forelegs.
Mack rides a barrel for at least an hour a day for practice and also climbs aboard a live animal every chance he gets.
“The ride happens so fast that so much of it is muscle memory,” Mack said. “There’s no time to think or react, it’s all instinct at that point so a lot of practice builds that muscle memory up.”
Mack said he’s not as afraid as he was when he started, but he tries to calm his nerves with lots of deep breathing exercises before he enters the chute.
“The fear factor is still there but it’s gone down a lot,” he said. “I try not to think about the bad stuff in the sport and stay more focused on getting a good ride.”
The “bad stuff” in the sport is a constant concern, one Mack is well aware of. More publicity around the effects of concussions and head injuries in all sports has thrown the issue into the public eye, and more athletes are making sure they are taking care of themselves before they re-enter their chosen arena.
“I’ve been lucky so far,” he shared. “I’ve been stepped on and had my knees banged up, the worst has been a mild concussion and I made sure it was healed up before I started again.”
So what drives him on? Most of all Mack just loves the sport, the rodeos, the camaraderie, and everything else that goes with it.
“I love every bit of it,” he said. “Hanging out at rodeos, traveling with my friends, seeing different places. It’s a lot of fun.”
Mack’s next event is the Williams Lake Indoor Rodeo, April 26 – 28, and of course he’ll be home for the Bella Coola Rodeo which starts on June 29.