Kegan Mayo has been kicked, stepped on, thrown, and “knocked stupid” by the bulls he’s ridden, but he keeps coming back for more.
“I’m an adrenaline junkie,” Mayo said.
The 16-year-old Hampstead native spent a week in Nevada earlier this month to compete at the Junior World Finals Rodeo in the Las Vegas Convention Center. Mayo, a junior at Manchester Valley High School, has been riding bulls since he was 10 and placed 21st out of 30 competitors in his age group and placed top in his age group out of the Northeast competitors. Young bull riders hailed from all over the United States, plus Canada, Australia, and Mexico, according to Mayo. The Northeast region includes Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Ohio, Mayo said.
For Mayo, rodeo always seemed like something he would grow up to do.
“It’s been a family thing,” Mayo said. "It’s something I always wanted to do because it’s always been in my house.”
His father, David Mayo, and brother, Parker Bell, have both ridden bulls, and Bell’s fiancée, Mariah Simondale, competes in barrel racing, according to Mayo.
After riding a bull for the first time, Mayo said he just wanted to do it again.
“I remember watching videos of me just doing everything completely wrong and just seeing so much room for improvement," Mayo said.
Mayo qualified for worlds in September when he earned “reserve champion," or second place, at a local competition.
“It’s just something we all work towards. I knew I was probably going [to worlds] throughout the whole season. It’s not the first time I’ve qualified for it," Mayo said.
Previously, the cost of the trip prevented Mayo from attending, but this year, he was ready.
“It’s just an opportunity you have to take," Mayo said.
At such a large competition, Mayo said there are potential sponsors in the crowd watching, and it’s important to make a good impression.
Leading up to the competition, Mayo had a bull riding injury to overcome that put him in a boot for a month. He had to build up his muscle again and spent much of his training strengthening his legs and core.
“It’s kind of like baseball or football, how you just practice running your routes or you practice catching the pop flies," Mayo said.
When it comes to judging, two judges each have 50 points to dole out, up to 25 for the rider and up to 25 for the bull, according to Mayo. He said the system is organized this way so a rider who gets an easy or “bad” bull does not get a higher score than a rider who had a tougher bull and had to put in more effort. Riders have to stay on their bulls for eight seconds to get a score.
“If you get a bad bull your points are going to suffer as well," Mayo said. “A bad bull is one that doesn’t jump, kick, throw its head around, try to throw you down on the ground as much as possible.”
Mayo rode two bulls in the world competition. His first mount was a “little black bull," on which Mayo earned 68 points. The competition was tough, according to Mayo.
His second bull was good and big, perhaps too good, as Mayo failed to hang out for the required eight seconds.
“I felt pretty good considering I placed top in my age group out of everyone from the Northeast that was there," Mayo said.
Even more skills: Roping and leather working
While he was there, Mayo met world champions in trick roping, gun spinning, and whip cracking. He was especially excited to meet a champion trick roper, because Mayo trick ropes, too.
Mayo contracts with the American Professional Rodeo Association. When there’s an opportunity to perform, he gets a call from a producer, Mayo gives them a price, and he’s hired.
“It’s a guaranteed check,” Mayo said.
He’s been trick roping for four years and, while in Vegas, Mayo met the owners of Western Stage Props, where he gets his supplies.
But Mayo’s work doesn’t stop there. About a year ago he started a custom leather and bead work business called Krooked K Customs, which can be found on Facebook and Instagram. He makes wallets, hat bands, belts, and more.
Most of the money he earns goes back into rodeo or toward buying a vehicle.
“It’s not cheap doing all what I do," Mayo said.
There are many nights spent driving and staying in hotels, he said.
“With rodeo I see myself going into more of the performing aspect of it," Mayo said. “My goal right now is to work the American Finals Rodeo as a performer and then in the future go to the National Finals Rodeo as a performer.”
Next semester, Mayo will study machine technology at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center and hopes to get his welding certification. In the future, Mayo hopes to buy into his brother’s cattle business.
Mayo recognizes that bull riding can be dangerous, but it’s a passion he’s chosen to pursue.
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“You could get hurt walking down the steps so why not do something you enjoy?” he said.