Last week, in a matter of four days, Beau Hill covered nearly 2,000 miles and competed in four rodeos. He also made sure to be home in Columbia Falls to take his kids to their first day of school.
“I’ve been on the road all year. It’s been a pretty long, grueling year,” Hill said.
The professional bull rider from Columbia Falls is enjoying one of his best seasons in the saddle this summer. As of last week he was sitting 13th in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association standings, giving him a shot at qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo, the premier championship rodeo event in the U.S.
Hill is cramming in as many events as he can before the PRCA regular season concludes Sept. 30, frequently competing in five rodeos a week while hoping to qualify for the NFR for the first time since 2004. He also qualified in 2002 and is a four-time qualifier for the Professional Bull Riding World Finals.
“It seems like I’m riding every day,” he said. “I’ve got a chance (at qualifying for the NFR) so you can’t really quit now. It’s the goal all year. You just have to keep going.”
That’s easier said than done when you’re 35 years old, riding 2,000-pound bulls and competing against riders who are often at least 10 years younger. With 15 years experience as a professional, Hill is one of the nation’s elder riders.
“I’ve about outlasted a lot of my friends already. It’s a young man’s deal,” Hill said.
Matt Triplett, another pro bull rider from Columbia Falls, is having an impressive season at 23. He’s ranked eighth in the PBR standings.
Hill started riding rodeos in the Flathead Valley at age 14 and fell in love with the sport. By 24, he was one of the best in the West, earning $159,455 in one year and taking third at the NFR.
“The Western lifestyle is pretty amazing. It’s just who I am,” he said. “That was my dream growing up and I went to college and did it and never really looked back.”
Now that he has a wife, Keri, and three kids — LaKia, Jace and Jory — his attention has shifted from the arena to home.
“That’s the hardest part, being on the road away from them,” he said. “I’m still having fun and still competing. As long as I can do that I’ll still do it, but I don’t see myself doing it a whole lot longer.”
For now, his attention is focused on the next eight seconds, day after day.
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