2021 was a wild ride for everyone, but few had a year quite as trialing as professional bull rider and 805 Authentico Stetson Lawrence.
Stetson was out of commission for the first six months of the 2021 season while he recovered from a reconstructive shoulder surgery he underwent during the offseason. Shortly after returning to the arena, he suffered another, more critical injury. But after everything, he managed to pull through and open the 2022 season better than ever, landing him at number three in rider standings as of January 17.
We sat down with Stetson to learn more about what he went through in 2021 and how he set himself up for a killer fresh start.
I’ve never experienced an injury like this. It was scary … I didn’t know if I was going to be able to ride bulls again.
Over the summer, Stetson was bucked off a bull during the second round of a classic in Tulsa, and he landed on his neck.
“Right after I landed, I lost feeling in some of my fingers and had a lot of nerve pain in my right arm,” he recalled.
Immediately after the fall, Stetson met with Dr. Tandy Freeman, well known in the bull riding world for his work with rodeo contestants. Together, they decided Stetson’s best option was to drive from Tulsa to Dallas to meet with a specialist Dr. Freeman works with.
Things moved quickly from there. Stetson met with the specialist on Monday, underwent surgery on Wednesday — consisting of a fusion, metal plate, and six screws put into his neck — returned home on Saturday, and entered physical therapy the following Monday.
“For the first six weeks, I was so limited with what I could do because I had the brace on, and I was told not to lift more than 10 pounds,” Stetson explained.
At first, he spent a lot of his PT time on the bike with BFR training bands. Once the brace came off, Stetson kept working with his physical therapist, who wrote a program for him to not only strengthen his neck, but his entire body, as he lost a lot of muscle mass during those first six weeks.
Now I am stronger than I was even before I broke my neck.
While his body was recovering, Stetson dealt with some struggles. Suddenly going from a world-class athlete to someone who isn’t allowed to carry a gallon of paint was a challenge.
Stetson explained: “I really tested the limits of that 10-pound restriction. It was hard for me to feel like I couldn’t do anything, especially because before I broke my neck, the gym had become a huge part of my routine.”
Beyond that, he missed bull riding. From the brotherhood and camaraderie of his fellow bull riders to the constant traveling, Stetson says he “honestly just missed doing my job.”
But he buckled down and powered through. “I spent time listening to a lot of mental toughness podcasts and studied my own riding videos,” he said.
My goal was to keep my mindset positive and to believe in myself and my ability to ride bulls.
His first ride of the 2022 season was in Indianapolis on Mind Freak, a bull he had ridden before and was familiar with. Going into it, he felt good.
“Before Indianapolis, I had really buckled down and committed to being focused on riding and reconnecting with the basics,” he said. “I moved my drop barrel into my garage and rode it every day for 21 days straight.”
Whatever he did, it worked.
Stetson walked away from that first competition back with a killer score of 88.25. Over the next couple of weeks, he continued raking in high and even near-perfect scores. And now, he sits third in overall rider standings.
What’s next for Stetson? “The goal is always to win a world title,” he said. “This season I am here to compete.”
While he still having fun and enjoying his job, Stetson is limiting all distractions.
He explained: “When I’m not riding on the weekends, I’m home working out, getting on that barrel, watching my videos. I’m more dedicated than ever to put in the extra work it takes to be successful.”
You’re not going to want to miss out on Stetson’s season. Check out his upcoming tour dates below, and be sure to follow along with him on Instagram @stetsonlawrence.
- 1/28 through 1/30 – Sacramento, CA
- 2/21 through 2/22 – Los Angeles, CA
- 2/25 through 2/26 – Little Rock, AK
- 3/12 through 3/13 – Glendale, AZ
- 3/18 through 3/19 – Kansas City, MO
- 3/25 through 3/27 – Albuquerque, NM
- 4/6 through 4/7 – Everett, WA
- 4/22 through 4/23 – Nampa, ID
- 4/29 through 5/1 – Billings, MT
- 5/13 through 5/22 – Fort Worth, TX