Joe, 13, loves ups and downs of rodeo life

JOE Down was eight when he found the family photo album. 

A couple images of his father riding a bull stood out. Somehow they stuck. 

It’s about midday in Codrington and Joe and his father Geoff are both tired after a nine-hour drive home from Port Augusta in South Australia. 

A package has also arrived — days late after being sent to the wrong address in Gippsland. 

It’s a rodeo outfit, bright blue and oddly mismatched against denim, boots and the serious expression worn by most professional competitors. 

At just 13 years old Joe is entering rodeo arenas interstate and around the south-west, including this weekend’s shows at Tyrendarra on Friday and Port Fairy on Saturday. 

He has been competing for nearly three years. 

“It’s just fun, really,” Joe says. 

“I saw pictures of dad just mucking around and I thought I’d have a go.” 

He shrugs off any concerns about injuries — and there have been a couple — the first being just moments into his first show in Queensland. “It didn’t go too good. I had my foot jumped on. 

“You’ve got to stay on for eight seconds to get a score and if you touch down you’re disqualified.

“(It’s) balance. Watch where you’re supposed to watch.”

Geoff Down has heard the gasps of disbelief from other parents and the quizzing concerns of family and friends. 

“You do get little jibes, but you’re not just throwing them on a bull ... you’d never do that,” Mr Down says adamantly. 

Little more than an hour away from their home off the Princes Highway near Dartmoor and down a dusty road is one of the country’s leading rodeo schools.

Mr Down has plenty of faith in the Woodall family who operate the majority of shows in the region. 

Younger bulls — no more than a year old — are picked out for younger riders to train and compete on. 

“They’re not riding huge bulls ... the boys know what the bulls are going to do,” he says. 

But the father can’t brush off the danger as easily as his son. “I probably get more nervous than Joe. But they’ve got bull fighters out there. If they’re in trouble they’ll get them out of there very quickly.” 

Mr Down says he gets more worried watching his son on a motorbike from the kitchen window. 

“I’ve got a lot of faith in Joe. He’s got an ability to do it. If he looked like he was going to get hurt every time, you wouldn’t let him do it — you just wouldn’t.”

Joe seems to have enough faith in himself and like other riders has his sights set on competing in North America. 

“I’d like to go over to America and get on a few bulls there,” he says. 

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