Lonnie Phillips, aged 15, is quickly becoming a recognizable face and name in the rodeo scene. This young bull rider is about to wrap up his best season yet with a sizeable pay cheque to show for it. Bull and steer riding has been with Phillips since he was born, but only recently has the Elk Valley local looked to make it a career.
“The first time I was ever on an animal I was four-years-old. That was back in Alberta on a calf. After that I didn’t do it again until 2011. I got on a couple then and wasn’t doing to great so I took a year off. I didn’t ride much in 2013 and when 2014 rolled around I started riding more,” said Phillips. “I have a connection with a riding program from the reserve of Brocket that was run by Tyrone Potts and they gave me a good start. I got on probably 12 cows a day over there when it was open. After a few months of practicing, I started riding better and started going to rodeos and I picked up a bit of money. A little later in 2014, around September I won a big steer riding up in Siksika Nation and from there it’s been great.”
Since the 2014 year, the rider has progressed to riding bulls. His first ride on a bull was July 28, 2015 at the Aakon-Kiyii Health Services Riding Program.
“I got on a few bulls that day, I don’t really remember the first two, it was kind of a blur,” recalled Phillips. “The next week I got on their beginner bull again and stayed on him.”
The first bull riding competition for Phillips was the New Years Eve Bullarama Rock the AG! in Fort McLeod, Alta.
“I went in the junior bull ride there and won it. After that I went to another reserve in Stand Off, Alberta and got on my first pro bull and he threw me on my head and I kind of learned my lesson there.”
Despite what many have told him, Phillips has been gaining steam in the bull-riding arena.
“I was the kind of kid that everyone said would never go anywhere. They said I did not have what it takes and the usual ‘you’re not good enough to do it.’ I feel like the stuff that I’ve accomplished so far is merely a blip in my future radar,” he said. “As far as I am concerned there were a lot of people that said I couldn’t and where I am at right now takes years and years for most people to get to. I am doing what everyone said I couldn’t.”
While many have said he couldn’t, there have been some Canadian rodeo stars that have helped him get to where he is.
“Tyrone Potts from the Aakom Kiyii Health Services Program, he put me in the program at the reserve there. He did not have to take me in but he took me under his wing and taught me as much as he could and gave me stock to get on,” said Phillips. “Ty Elliot is a Canadian championship bull rider, he gave me a lot of help. He runs a little rodeo series up in Claresholm, it’s the small spurs rodeo series. I’ve been there for five years and this was the first year I made a cheque there. Ty helped me and got me on some really good stock, and had helped me and gave me some tips to help me win.”
The red and white is Phillips trademark, but it is also a family legacy.
“I am a third generation bull rider. My grandpa used to ride bulls and was a really good rider back in the 50’s to 70’s. My dad was an extremely skilled bull rider in his day as well,” he explained. “There is a family tradition in our equipment. My grandpa had some red and white chaps that he wore. When my dad started riding bulls he took over my grandpa’s chaps. Dad bought some maple leaf chaps later on and now I am wearing those. All the maple leafs you see on my gear is from my family.”
With the finals approaching, the 2016 season is almost over for the rider. Phillips is feeling confident in his current standings and is aiming to make history as the first person to win in the junior bull category and the open bull category in the same finals.
“My biggest achievement was the win at the Herbert Stampede in Saskatchewan. That was my first open bull riding competition, it was the biggest pay cheque I’ve ever received plus it was a great rodeo, and it was my greatest achievement so far.”