Mason Spain is College Bound Earning His Way 8 Seconds at a Time

It is no surprise that Mason Spain won the Tuff Hedeman Cripple Creek Junior Championship Challenge Steer riding in front of a sold out CBR at the Stockyards Coliseum on Saturday night in Fort Worth. 

This twelve year old rider has been competing for ten years, won over 150 trophy buckles, 20 saddles and has a bulging college fund that just got a $1,000 bump from four time World Champion bull rider, Tuff Hedeman. 

Spain and his fellow competitors each left the arena with a custom Cripple Creek vest, a new Resistol cowboy hat, a Roughstock shirt from Panhandle Slim, and a pair of Cinch Jeans. As the event winner, Spain was presented with the Champion’s custom engraved Juan Jose Muñoz Andrade trophy buckle and a pair of premium Lucchese boots.  The total purse for the Cripple Creek Junior Championship Challenge was $2,000 with each rider receiving a check at the end of the competition.     

For over 20 years Hedeman has been supporting the industry’s next generation by inviting them to compete in the spotlight as part of his annual event.

It is more than an exhibition. It is all business on the back of the chutes for these already heavily decorated young athletes.

“I was more nervous when it was sheep and calves, I know what I am doing now”, said the newly crowned twelve year old steer riding champion, Mason Spain of Forney, Texas.

Gathered up with the professionals on the back of the chutes, six young cowboys bowed their heads during the prayer, crossed their hearts at the anthem, and mimicked the moves they would make riding animals nearly ten times their weight when it was their turn at the 23rd Annual Tuff Hedeman Challenge Championship. 

“My draw jumped out of the gate, turned back into my hand and then spun round and round like a superhero”, said Mason still clutching the Hedeman gold buckle.

Riding bucking steers in front of a packed house of both fans and peers, they all agreed “it’s pretty cool”.

Spain who has been featured on Chevy Hometown Kids, Kidz in Motion and Sports Dad was super cool in the hot seat explaining his ride, jump for jump.

“I knew spectators would really enjoy the youth bull riders,” said Hedeman. “They are this country’s future to carry on the cowboy tradition.  They’re excellent athletes who have earned the privilege of riding here. All kids can look up to them. It’s a great experience for the other kids too.”

Each year Hedeman taps the champions from the top youth bull riding organizations when issuing the special invitation to compete. 

While the chance to ride does have its rewards, it is not without its challenges and consequences.

Texas Youth Bull Riders Inc. requires rodeo athletes to wear a mouthpiece, vest and helmet with a faceguard, making them look almost like hockey players in spurs and Western wear.

The sport of bull riding is not without its price tags, including entry fees, travel, and unfortunately doctor’s bills occasionally. Money and college goals are part of the allure of bull riding for these children and their parents. Through 8 seconds of rough stock competition, a financial and educational future can be paved.

Curtis Spain, Mason’s father, said he hopes his son will get a college scholarship for bull riding, as he did.

Mason “Started with sheep and calves,” said Spain. “He’s never been intimidated. They got bigger as he got bigger. More of his fear comes from the performance — the crowd, glamour and interviews.”

Spain’s wins include the Texas Youth Bull Riders, the Pro Youth Rodeo Association and Texas Christian Junior Bull Riders.

He does have a savings account, but he helps with traveling and entry fees. He has more than half of what he expects to pay for a new truck when he gets his driver’s license.

Rodeoing is a motivating factor for the boys to do well in school, Curtis Spain said. If they don’t do well, they can’t compete. 

Spain plans to attend Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. Maybe he will follow in CBR and NFR World Finals qualifier Trey Benton’s footsteps, a member of the Sam Houston State Rodeo team and the winner of both the Cripple Creek Challenge and the 2014 Hedeman Fort Worth Championship Challenge.