Strathmore bull rider on comeback trail and poised to challenge for CFR title
How does an Albertan rancher start down the path to riding bulls? For professional bull rider Scott Schiffner it all started when he rode the team roping cattle at age eight.
“I’d always been involved in rodeo, and roped a lot as a kid,” Schiffner says. “But to be honest, I found roping a bit boring. One day a bunch of us kids got permission to ride the team roping cattle, and I really liked it. I guess that was the beginning of the whole deal.”
At age 14 Schiffner qualified for the CFR in Boy’s Steer Riding. While he didn’t win the event, he managed to ride all six of his steers. “That first time in the CFR was the most exciting thing I’d ever done,” Schiffner says. “And I knew I wanted to go back again.”
Schiffner admits his mother would have preferred him to be involved in a sport different than bull riding. “She didn’t want me to get hurt,” he says. “But she tried hard to not discourage me either. Basically my parents said ‘If you’re going to do this, then do your best.’”
Schiffner has qualified for the CFR 12 times since going professional in 1998. In 2001 he was the Canadian Bull Riding Champion with the highest season earnings that year, plus the CFR Bull Riding Champion. In 2009 he won the CFR Bull Riding Champion again.
“I’ve got so I expect to be at the CFR every year but that doesn’t always happen,” he says. “Last year I didn’t qualify, and there really wasn’t any excuse for it. Yes, I hurt my knee, but everyone has an injury of some sort so that shouldn’t matter. Luckily bull riders have short memories, so I quickly forgot about it and focused on the future!”
This year things have been going smoother for Schiffner, who is currently sitting second in Canadian Bull Riding earnings, only about $500 behind the leader, Ty Pozzobon.
“I’m getting older in my career, and I guess my bull riding days are numbered,” Schiffner admits. “But I feel good, and I’m ready to compete. One day I’ll retire, but when I do, I don’t want to go out with any regrets.”
Schiffner and his wife and two young daughters ranch near Strathmore, Alberta working with extended family. The ranch runs a 750 commercial cow-calf operation, and also owns 15 Quarter Horses of various ages.
“We use our horses for everything,” Schiffner says. “Unlike some ranchers, we don’t even own a quad. We use our horses for all the necessary doctoring, sorting and treating. And we don’t bring the cattle up to the corral very often, instead we’ll do everything in the open with the horses if at all possible. I might not be a great roper in the arena but I’ve got so I can do okay out in the pasture.”
Schiffner feels his many hours of horseback riding have made him a better bull rider.
“I know there are a lot of good bull riders that never sit on a horse,” he says. “But for me, horseback riding is the closest thing to bull riding. Nothing simulates bull riding as much as loping a horse bareback in a circle. Doing that uses the same muscles and abilities as bull riding, and I find it a lot more realistic than the mechanical bulls.”
When asked how much longer he expects to bull ride, Schiffner hesitates. “Everyone asks me that,” he finally replies. “And I don’t know the answer. I do know that I have at least one more year left in me. I guess as long as I’m having fun, and still winning, I’ll keep coming back. When those things change, then I’ll quit. But when that will actually happen is still up in the air.”