Dakota Buttar hasn’t ridden a bucking bull in competition since the novel coronavirus pandemic halted his sport four months ago.
The 27-year-old sits as Canada’s current number-one ranked bull rider and plans to pick up where he left off next week.
The Saskatchewan native first started riding steers at the age of eight.
“It’s something I just grew up around … pretty well my whole life. So it kind of grew on me… You kind of get addicted to it a bit,” he said calling from Eatonia, Sask., on Friday.
“I love bucking bulls, and it’s kind of cool that they’re their own athletes, too, and that’s one of my favourite things about the sport — that there’s human athletes and animal athletes… something that I really love about it.”
While he’s never had to sit out a season due to injury, Buttar said he still respects the bulls.
“It can be (scary), sometimes they’re intimidating when they’re really big… the average bucking bull is about 1,600 pounds,” he said.
“There’s a bull from Alberta named (Tykro) Pound Sand and he’s been pretty good to me the last year. I won Lethbridge and Calgary on him this year… I have to say he’s my favourite going right now.
“And there’s a bull in the United States called Fearless, he hasn’t been too good to me so he’s probably my least favourite one to get on.”
After a hiatus from competition due to the onset of COVID-19, PBR (Professional Bull Riders) Canada plans to hold the first fan-attended professional sporting event in the country on July 23 in Lethbridge, Alta.
The PBR Canada Monster Energy Tour LIVE: Drive-In Spectacular is set to take place inside the closed arena while fans watch in the ENMAX Centre parking lot via a suspended 23-foot big screen.
Buttar last rode in competition on March 6-7 in Alberta and intends to return to Lethbridge for the upcoming PBR event for his first time back in competition.
“For sure (excited). This is probably one of the longest breaks I’ve ever taken, so I’m itching to get back to it. Things are building… so we’re planning for things to go smoothly so we can hopefully keep at it,” Buttar said.
“There hasn’t really been any bull riding since (the pandemic) hit, to be honest. I haven’t seen nothing going in Saskatchewan so it’s pretty well been put on hold.”
The provincial government announced, as part of Phase 4.2 of its Re-Open Saskatchewan plan, that racetracks and rodeo-related activities could resume on July 16.
However, it was too late for some events in Saskatchewan.
On June 9, officials announced that the 2020 season at Marquis Downs was not feasible with the limitations in place at the time. Located at Prairieland Park in Saskatoon, it’s the only live thoroughbred racecourse in the province.
On May 1, the Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association said it explored options; however, with the pandemic, there were too many uncertainties so it suspended the 2020 season until 2021.
Event partners for the Canadian Cowboys Association Finals Rodeo made the decision on May 20 to cancel the 2020 event amidst concerns related to COVID-19. The event had been scheduled for Oct. 14-17 in Swift Current.
After visiting the likes of Lethbridge and Calgary, Buttar’s season is anticipated to culminate in Saskatoon for the 2020 PBR Canada Finals from Nov. 13-14.
“Saskatoon’s probably my favourite event of the year cause it’s the closest for me. So it’s like my hometown event,” Buttar said.
“I have family and friends coming and that’s our final so that’s where everyone wants to be at the end so we’re all pushing to get that event going still.”
PBR Canada said all of its future events are subject to change, and planned in accordance with directives issued by relevant government and health authorities given the evolving regulations during the pandemic.
“It shouldn’t affect the riding a whole lot. It’s definitely going to be a lot different and awkward for the first with a mass and distancing from one another, but we all want to get back to it,” Buttar said.
“Everybody’s going to be pushing these and being as strict as we can. But when it comes down to it, when we’re on the bull, that’s going to be the same, nothing’s going to change there. It’s just going to be the rider and the bull and you go do your job no matter what.”
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.