BIG SKY – Aaron Roy travels to so many Professional Bull Riders events it’s easy to lose count.

He predicts he’ll compete in 50-60 events by the time the season is up and a $1 million bonus has been awarded to the overall PBR World Champion in Las Vegas this November.

Roy’s been riding bulls long enough that he doesn’t often get scared in the chute gates anymore—he followed three older brothers into the rodeo arena when he was 11 years old and regularly traveled to events by age 16.

“I’ve been on so many bulls, I’m never nervous,” Roy said. “[If it’s a] big show or you’re riding for a whole bunch of money, you get a little bit of nerves, but I wouldn’t say it’s scared nerves. I would say it’s more of excitement nerves.”

Aaron Roy. Photos by Andy Watson / Bull Stock Media

Aaron Roy. Photos by Andy Watson / Bull Stock Media

He acknowledges he felt a bit of fear about a year and a half ago, when he climbed on a bull after a 16-month hiatus due to a broken back he sustained at the Calgary Stampede. The injury, a break near the base of his spinal cord, could have easily ended his career.

“The first [bull after the injury] was a little nerve-wracking because I didn’t know what to expect, [but I was] back into it right after that.”

Jacey Watson, vice president of Freestone Productions, says she admires the grit it took for the veteran to reenter the arena.

In conjunction with Outlaw Partners and Continental Construction, Watson and her husband Andy produce Big Sky PBR, and she’s been following Roy’s career as the 29-year-old has climbed through the ranks. “He’s got that will, the determination to have his history [written] the way that he wants,” Watson says.

His performance the past couple of years bears that out; Roy, who’s been competing in PBR events since 2006, claimed the 2014 PBR Canada National Finals title his first year back from injury.

Despite a travel schedule that might put him in New York, Oklahoma and California within a three-week stretch, Roy tries to spend as much time as possible at home in Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan between events.

Watson said some of the smaller events in the summer allow PBR riders to change pace and “play rodeo cowboy.” In lieu of catching cross-country flights to huge arenas with locker rooms, riders get into their rodeo rigs and compete in venues where the crowd is almost close enough to touch.

Roy’s wife Hallie—an accomplished barrel racer in her own right—and 2-year old son Axel attend some of the PBR events closer to home. “He is the most attentive father I have found,” Watson says. “His son adores him.”

Jess Lockwood. Stanley studio shoot. Built Ford Tough series PBR. Photo by Andy Watson

Jess Lockwood. Stanley studio shoot. Built Ford Tough series PBR. Photo by Andy Watson

“I made the mistake of showing [Axel] the movie ‘8 Seconds,’” Roy says. “He’s hooked on bull riding now. There’s no steering him in any other direction … You ask him what he is and it’s a cowboy or a bull rider.”

Like Roy, 18-year-old Jess Lockwood, an up-and-comer on the tour, has rodeo in his blood.

Lockwood’s mother competed in barrel racing and his father, a saddle bronc rider, won the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit Championship in 1992.

In February, Lockwood opted to leave his family’s ranch in Volborg, Mont., and go the homeschool route so he could work with PBR founder Cody Lambert and two-time PBR champion Justin McBride at Lamberts’ Texas ranch.

Lockwood already knew how to ride when he moved to the ranch—he won his first Montana High School Rodeo Association bull riding title as a freshman—so Lambert and McBride have been focusing on the mental component of bull riding.

“They put winning on you,” Lockwood says. “They teach you not to make excuses and hold yourself accountable for whatever happens. It makes a big difference when you start doing that.”

Evidently, the training—both in and out of the arena—is paying off: Lockwood, who was ranked 15th in the world as of EBS press time, has won more than $90,000 this year and taken home wins at a couple of big events, including a first-place finish at an April Built Ford Tough Series stop in Billings.

Both Lockwood and Roy are planning to compete in the Big Sky PBR.

Roy estimates he’s come to every Big Sky PBR except the year he was injured. “It’s one of the best events to go to all year, in my opinion,” Roy says. “You’ve got the outdoor atmosphere in a great location [and] the crowd right on top of you.”

When July 29 rolls around and Roy awaits the opening of the gate, he’ll try to put the crowd out of mind, though. He says the best piece of advice he’s ever gotten is to have fun and avoid over thinking things.

“You’re not there to beat anybody else,” Roy says. “You’re just up there riding against yourself and the bull.”

The Big Sky PBR is offering opportunities to sponsor bull riders at this year’s event, including the Cowboy Angel Package that includes two Golden Buckle tickets for July 29 and covers a rider’s entry costs. Purchase of this package will help a hard working cowboy afford coming to Big Sky, while you get to enjoy the luxuries of the Golden Buckle hospitality tent and seating.

Visit bigskypbr.com for tickets and more information, and email ersin@outlaw.partners for more bull rider sponsorship opportunities.