DENVER – Alarm clocks come early in the professional bull riding world, it’s just part of the lifestyle.
Early flights, early training sessions, an early breakfast to get off on the right foot; the cowboy lifestyle doesn’t entertain much sleeping in. Snoozing alarm clocks won’t get you too far either, especially if you’re recovering from an injury.
But those aren’t the only reasons Chase Dougherty is up at 5 a.m. every day as he continues to recover from upper-body injuries he sustained in September riding for the Arizona Ridge Riders of the PBR Team Series.
“I’ve just been in the gym every day. Andrew Alvidrez has been really helping me out. Not just physically, but mentally too,” Dougherty said. “I go to the gym at five, he’ll go to the gym at like six or seven, we both get our own individual workouts in that way and then he’ll come over to the house in the afternoon, we get on the barrel and really, we more or less sit around and talk about bull riding. He really helps me keep the right attitude. That’s what my life has been for the last seven months, just that, every day.”
Dougherty wants to get healthy and make a run for the gold buckle, even if it means taking the slow and steady approach. Hanging out and training with the current No. 1 rider on the Unleash The Beast tour could certainly improve his chances, too.
“I’m going to take it slow. This will be my first one, then I won’t go to another one until Fort Worth on the 19th, then I’m actually going to take two weeks off and go to school and then when I get done with that, my first UTB as of right now is going to be Indianapolis (Jan. 28-29),” Dougherty said.
“I’m going to keep getting on practice bulls every week leading up to it, but if I feel like I need to get on some more bulls, I might wait another week or so, but right now that’s the plan.”
There wasn’t anything slow about his unorthodox return to the chutes, though, as the 24-year-old learned he would be inserted into the lineup that afternoon as an alternate after jumping in the truck with Ridge Riders temmate Ross Freeman on a whim to travel to the Mile High City.
“I don’t know why exactly, I just had a feeling that someone was going to back out,” Dougherty said. “This wasn’t even my bull, that bull was meant for someone else, but Ross knew there was a chance too, he invited me to jump in the truck and ride down here with him, so here I am.”
106 days removed from his last out, a Sept. 25 Bonus Round attempt for the Ridge Riders, when he was stepped on by Moonlight Party and immediately sent to the hospital; 206 days after recording his last qualified ride, an 83.75-point ride atop Yadi during a Teams preseason event June 17; 688 days (nearly two years!) after participating in his last Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour event, which resulted in an 87-point effort aboard Driller, it had been a while since the Decatur, Texas, native had ridden a bull.
“The doctors basically told me ‘If you feel like you’re good to go, you’re good to go,’ and that was kind of the gist of it. They didn’t really tell me what to do specifically, it’s all been up to me whether or not I want to do it again,” Dougherty said.
None of that mattered on a chilly January night inside the Denver Coliseum as the 117th National Western Stock Show, presented by Centura, raged on Monday night.
Getting ready for his first attempt in more than four months, what goes through one’s head when returning from a dangerous wreck?
“Honestly, I try not to let anything going through my mind, I just try to trust God and trust the work that I’ve put in and really just take advantage of the opportunity God has given me,” Dougherty said.
Seemingly unbothered by the nature of his alternate status or the potential pressure associated with returning to the big stage for the first time in nearly four months, the cowboy readied and silently nodded his head.
Exiting the chutes in thrilling fashion, paired against Renegade for his Round 1 matchup, the 24-year-old bested his bovine opponent before being met with a rowdy applause. In lieu of celebrating his first qualified ride in nearly seven months, he ran right over to a front-row Cody Lambert, who seemed to offer him a mix of encouragement and immediate feedback as his welcome-back score was announced through the Coliseum.
After chatting with the PBR legend for a good 20 seconds, he dismounted from the edge of the arena and humbly made his way back to the locker room, receiving a few high-fives and smiles from competitors who understood how big of a ride that was for the returning cowboy.
He, Freeman and Lambert would later be seen taking in the rest of the contest within the rider hospitality area, a few of the many folks responsible for helping Dougherty’s recovery process over the past four months.
“Doug Champion, our team trainer, has helped me out a bit here lately and is starting to play a bigger role, but it was mainly just me and Andrew and a guy who keeps horses at my place, AP, Ace Pickens, he’s been helping me out a bunch, but it’s really been a lot of just me in the gym as far as rehab goes,” Dougherty said.
Dougherty’s 83-point score was good enough to earn the rider a fifth-place effort through the contest’s first night. After seeing 45 riders make an attempt Monday night, Round 1 will conclude Tuesday, Jan. 10, inside the Coliseum with the second batch of 45 riders set to compete beginning at 7 p.m. MT. Round 2, featuring the Top 30 riders from the opening go, will be paired with the championship round on Wednesday, Jan. 11.
For Dougherty, he’s just happy to be back in the chutes, and won’t be wasting any opportunities as he continues to strive for 100% health.
“I’ll be honest, there was a time I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to ride bulls again, so being able to get the chance to do it again, I’m going to make sure I do it to the best of my ability.”
Article Courtesy of PBR
Photo courtesy of Todd Brewer/Bull Stock Media