Four time Bullfighter of the Year Retires from CBR

 Going out on top bullfighter Brandon Loden Retires from CBR

“I never fought bulls for the crowd or the pat on the back or the fame.”

 When Brandon Loden was a kid who wanted to ride bulls, long before he became one of the most versatile assets on the Road to Cheyenne, a high profile stock contractor began to worry about whether he'd make it much longer in this sport. It had nothing to do with a lack of talent, because Loden was one of the best athletes in the rodeo arena. Rather, Terry Williams just realized that Brandon Loden was on the wrong side of the chutes when the latch man cracked the gate.

Fast forward 12 years, after multiple broken bones, torn ACL and MCL, and a January 2017 concussion that was not his first head injury, something else was weighing on the 4-time CBR Bullfighter of the Year’s mind during the last four months of the 2017 Road to Cheyenne tour. He was dealing with the need to make a change for his family, born of the knowledge that his family needed him and that each time he stepped in front of a thousand pound bucking beast - he jeopardized the future of his wife Jill, and his four children.

Brandon Loden fought his last bull in CBR competition on October 7 at the Lone Star arena in Conroe, Texas. Announcing his retirement just a few weeks prior, it was bittersweet.

It's become clear, after eight years providing cowboy protection to 11 CBR World Champions, that Loden’s presence will be missed on the Road to Cheyenne and in the professional rodeo arena as well.

“Thinking about my family and my next move to make life better for us and take care of them and be  around them more,” responded Loden regarding his recent retirement announcement.

At 32 years of age, Brandon Loden’s career in rodeo and with bucking stock is nowhere near over - he can probably play every position in the bull riding backfield, and he generally knows the complete mechanics of a bull riding and has seen most bucking bulls on the road today, whatever the name of the event, Loden is well-informed.

The Game

Since August of 2009 Loden has witnessed some of the most amazing moments on the dirt. Cody Teel riding four bulls with a fractured foot to win the CBR World Finals in 2015, Sage Kimzey winning an unprecedented three World Titles, Boudreaux Campbell securing his 2017 NFR position by making a clutch ride in Kansas to move up and take the Rookie of the Year title as well. But for all the great rides there were the damaging ones he witnessed as well, many lost careers.

“A Lot of good bull riders get wrecked out and I have seen that, in the arena right now I am impressed by Cody Jesus who has no quit and Kimzey is the most capable bull rider I have ever been around in my whole life, he’s successful because he rarely gets himself in a bad situation, he (Kimzey) is so tough, even with nerve damage, he goes on and on and does his deal,” continued Loden.

So I asked the evitable, what is the most memorable moment in the arena? The response was unexpected – waiting for a trophy type story of an 8 second ride on an un-ride-able bull, the 6’5 lean Loden responded with an unpredictable response.

“I get to see every movement of the bull and the bull rider and what the bull rider has to do, the reactions that the rider has to make to the bull; each detail about the way the bull moves every part of his body (pause) you can’t see that from the stands.”

As unexpected as it was – it was that response that portrays the path he now takes and after convincing one of his boys he would still be there to protect him when he was riding, Loden has come to peace with retiring.

 The Beginning

Brandon Loden grew up in Gilmer, Texas and with dreams of being a bull rider. His early years were ranch work, welding, and hauling bulls for Harlan Robertson, the latter being the job where Loden got his introduction into his second career choice

 “He was a brilliant talent in search of the right place where he could channel his athleticism,” said Terry Williams the first time I asked him about Loden many years ago. “I just facilitated his ability by throwing him out front to fight bulls when we were short one day in the pen.”

His first paycheck fighting bulls came from the former CBR stock contractor of the year, Scott Burrus who was in desperate need of a bullfighter for a performance and heard about Loden fighting in the practice pen.

“Scott called and asked me to come fight, I was hesitant as I had never done it except in practice, I asked how much it paid – it was then I became a professional bull fighter,” chuckled Loden. 

In addition to his bullfighting duties on the Road to Cheyenne, Loden also provided logistical support to the CBR production crew setting up and tearing down the bull riding arena at all tour stops. He has loaded bulls, sorted bulls, hung ropes, unloaded, and placed the mechanical dummy on the fractious two year old bucking bulls at industry futurity competition. 

The Middle

Described as a top tier bullfighter by his peers, he is known to be aggressive, a student of the game and he is known as a professional athlete.

“Fighting bulls is not a process, said Loden, “its instinct.”

According to Loden friendships and who the cowboy is does not affect the way you do the job when you are a bullfighter. The Loden way –at the end of the day you have to do your job and you have to get it right, lives are on the line.

“I didn’t make a game plan at each out, but I remember bulls and what they are going to do and I am infatuated with the animal bull athletes. I am a student of the sport and I remember what bulls are going to do because I love bulls, I am infatuated with the bulls.”

“It takes someone who can react to the bull’s every thought to protect both the bull and the bull rider,” added Loden. 

After pouring thru hundreds of Todd Brewer photos of Brandon at work, one person stood out that he was photographed with time and time again - smiling at each other and enjoying the moment.

Working under the watchful eye of CBR Chute Boss and bull riding icon Tuff Hedeman, Loden was eager to talk about the champ. 

“It’s an honor to work for Tuff and build the friendship I have with him, we are friends, contrary to popular belief he is one of the best men I know - he will always tell you the truth, whether you want to hear it or not and he will go to the end of the world for you if you are his friend,” said Loden.

“I made the short list for the NFR and that was an honor, I have always said that I wanted to go out on top and this was the best year I have ever had. I was recently notified I was selected to fight bulls at both the Texas Circuit Final and the Ram National Finals before my full retirement. I feel like I am going out with a bang.”

The Next Chapter

 “My dream job would be to become a stock contractor and be bucking bulls every day,” said Loden with zero hesitation.

Loden, who enjoys a sterling reputation in his ability to read cattle on both sides of the chutes, plans a career where he bucks bulls daily. I have played the bull riding game from every angle and I truly believe to be great at anything you have to be obsessed – and I am.

“I am not disappearing – just coming back in a different way.” That way is yet to be seen but as Loden relocates to Riverton, Wyoming, the home of his wife’s family business, Powder River Rodeo Company, he will have many opportunities being associated with the long-time producer of good livestock, great events, talented children, and nice people.

 “No mediocrity in our lives is the plan,” said Loden.

When the Powder River Rodeo Company arrives at the awards banquet in December, they are nominated for five individual best of PRCA rodeo titles including the sound of the CBR, Jill Franzen Loden who is nominated for PRCA Music Director of the Year.

Advise and Protect

Any advice for your kids and others who want to be in the bull riding world?

“Everything is put in our hearts – don’t let anyone stand in the way of your dreams.”

Looking forward to enjoying the rodeo lifestyle he and Jill are building for their kids, Loden is reminded that his kids will have opportunity he did not.

“I am the scrawny east Texas kid from a family that no one ever rodeoed and they looked at me like I was crazy when I said what I wanted to do.”

Loden continued to explain that it’s important to him that they will have doors open that he didn’t. They will be able to get on bulls, go rope calves, and just be around rodeo in contrast to his early days.

Brandon Loden’s focus and work ethic will no doubt serve as a model and inspiration for generations of bullfighters and cowboys yet to come.

*Brandon Loden was CBR Bullfighter of the Year in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2016 and a top five finalist for the PRCA 2017 National Finals Rodeo.