Posted July 5, 2021 in Podcast

Professional Bareback Riding with Richmond Champion

Professional Bareback Riding with Richmond Champion

Do you have an unusual passion and feel drawn to do something beyond the mundane? 

Sometimes, from a young age, we are filled with awe about a particular sport or profession, but how many of us have the courage to pursue that dream to the fullest? My guest today not only has the coolest surname — “Champion” — but he also competes as a professional bareback rider — not something many of us know about, let alone pursue! We’ll talk more about pursuing your unique dream in this episode.

Friends, I’m so excited to have Richmond Champion on the Reaching Beyond podcast to share his inspiring journey with you all. He is a truly interesting human being! I previously interviewed his wife, Paige Lawrence Champion, an Olympic athlete on Episode 117, so this is great to interview the other side of this dynamic duo and hear how they met too! Let’s get into it!

 

Who Is Richmond Champion?


Richmond was born in Orange County, California, but was only there for a couple of months. His family moved around a lot, living in seven states before finally ending up in Stevensville, Montana, which is in the Bitterroot valley, about 40 minutes south of Missoula.

Richmond’s dad played a pivotal role in his upbringing. Working in the hotel business, his dad taught him how to fish, hunt, and most importantly how to see things through. Richmond attributes a large portion of his current success in bareback riding to the ongoing support of his dad.

Richmond is a six-time national finals rodeo qualifier, a three-time Canadian finals rodeo qualifier, 2018 Canadian champion bareback rider, two-time Calgary stampede champion, and the list goes on and on. As you can see — he’s exceptionally good at his profession. I asked Richmond to share the one piece of advice that he tends to give out most:

“Be patient. As long as you keep trying, it’s going to work out eventually — and I think that applies to anything.” – Richmond Champion

Richmond met Paige because her dad raises bucking horses in Canada, and so she’s always been around the rodeo scene. One day, she just messaged him on Snapchat to ask a question about a rodeo for her dad. 

“You open the door, big mistake — I am very persistent! I ended up going up there to rodeo in Canada and got to see her quite a bit. Just like that, here we are.” – Richmond Champion

This all happened just after Paige competed at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. The rest, as they say, is history.

 

Richmond’s Journey to Becoming A Bareback Rider


One of the states Richmond and his family lived in was Alaska for six years before they moved to Texas. Richmond loved Alaska’s skiing, and the outdoors was everything to him, so moving to Texas left a huge hole for him to fill. 

“Both my mom and dad had some sort of background with horses, and that’s what I wanted to learn — to ride. As I got older, we always watched the national finals rodeo on television in December and the PBR, which is a Professional Bull Rider, started being on television every week. Well, as a kid, I thought that was pretty cool. So I wanted to learn how to ride bulls.” – Richmond Champion

Richmond rode his first bull at age 13 and stuck with it until his junior year of high school. He was getting sick of falling off a lot of bucking bulls in his life and at that point needed to make a choice and try something new. 

“My brother rode bareback horses a little bit in high school, and he was starting [to ride again]. He had already found a place to get on some practice horses, and one day he came in my room and [said], ‘Hey, I’m going to go get on, do you want to come with?’ Pretty much from that day forward, it caught on like wildfire, [and I] ended up winning the high school Texas State Championships senior year, and it opened the door for me to get a rodeo scholarship to Tarleton State University. It’s just been my life ever since.” – Richmond Champion

There came a point where Richmond had to make a choice between education and rodeo, which meant having a difficult talk with his dad, going against his wishes, and choosing rodeo because he knew deep down it was what he was meant to do.

 

Common Misconceptions About Bareback Riding


Because so few people truly understand the sport or follow it, Richmond has common misconceptions about the sport that are not even close to being accurate.

“Most of the negative light I think for our sport is the treatment of the animals. They just assume that we don’t care if a horse gets hurt. The injury rate on an animal is less than 1% at over a thousand rodeos a year. When something does happen, it hurts everybody. Nobody wants to see that, and that’s not our goal.” – Richmond Champion

There is also a tremendous amount of care being given to horses and treating them like athletes.  Whether it’s sore tendons or any injury, they are spending the money to get them injected, ultrasound appointments, and even chiropractors. 

“There are even fines to protect the animals. If we do something or mistreat an animal and a judge sees it, they fine us, and you’re not paying off that fine very easily. The respect we all have for the animals because they’re half our score — if the horse doesn’t perform and it was my fault, well, I just cost myself that opportunity.” – Richmond Champion

Richmond encourages people to pose questions to anybody in the sport because they are not scared to talk about it and tell you all about it.

 

Rules for Competition


As someone with limited knowledge about the sport, I’m curious about what the rules are for competing and what Richmond’s personal best in competition has been.

“We have to stay on for eight seconds. That’s all three rough stock events — saddle bronc, bareback, and bull riding. [You must have] one hand in the air, [and] you can’t touch yourself or the animal or it’s an automatic disqualification. … Once you make an eight-second ride, the judges will give 50 points for the horse — how well it bucked — and 50 points for how well you rode it.” – Richmond Champion

I had no idea the scoring system was so intricate based on both the horse and the rider. Points judged on how exposed you were, how in control your upper body was, how high in the neck your place your feet, because the higher you go towards the mane, the easier it is for you to make a mistake. 

The judges have a short window, but they pick all of that up really fast. Essentially, the riders are aiming for the highest score in that eight-second window to win the prize money.

 I’ve been in the finals of San Antonio before and been 92 and a half [points] and won second, I’ve been 89 [points] and not won a penny. It depends on how good the guys are, how good the horses are, and how it works out. Last week I won both rounds at Corpus Christi with 89, [winning in] the first round, and 91 to win in the second.” – Richmond Champion

It’s fascinating to know that the horse’s performance can play such an important role in whether a rider wins or loses.

 

The Mental Preparation Before Competition


Richmond has some great videos on his
YouTube channel and even on Instagram for you to watch. Recently, he posted a video sharing that, whether in the locker room or in the shoot just before he’s about to ride in competition, he has a way of mentally preparing to go out into such a hostile environment.

“We have five different groups of horses we classify [that we ride], but for the most part, my program stays the same. It’s honestly reminding myself that nothing changes — you’ve got to trust in your training and know that your body’s going to do it when you’re out there. It’s a completely subconscious game from the time I leave the bucket shoots. If you’re trying to think about what to do, that horse is ahead of you, and you’re on the ground and in trouble before you know it.” – Richmond Champion

How fascinating that once those doors open and the horse is bucking away, those eight seconds all become subconscious. Many of the competitors tell jokes with the guys and try whatever they can not to think about the task at hand. While all the routines are different — everyone has one. 

“I would say my routine is my biggest thing. Whether I have an hour and a half, or 20 minutes to do it [because I’m] running late or trying to work too many rodeos the same day, [I] stick with what works, and that [is] a lot of activation and stretching. I feel like once my body’s ready, then my mind is right there with it, and there’s nothing to think about after that. [I] try not to let fear get in the way.” – Richmond Champion

We can learn a lesson from that about building a routine that allows us to push through the fear and not allow it to hamper us in the task we have ahead of us.

 

Why You Should Listen to This Richmond Champion Podcast Episode Right Now…


Guys, this is such a great interview with Richmond Champion — especially for those who are like me and completely new to the sport of bareback riding. It was a great honor to chat with Richmond, and I can certainly say that I look forward to watching a rodeo now and will have a much better understanding of what I’m watching. Who knows
— maybe I’ll even be able to go support Richmond in person later in the year too. 

To conclude this episode, I asked Richmond one last question: If he had to give a TED talk on something he wasn’t known for, what topic would it be? This was his answer:

Fly fishing — ‘cause that’s my next main hobby outside of what I do.” – Richmond Champion

Considering he ended up in Montana, this makes complete sense, and I’d enjoy listening to Richmond talk about how the quiet time fishing helps him on his off days between riding. I hope you’ve been inspired by this conversation and feel driven to explore more of what excites you!

To get more wisdom from him, you can follow Richmond on social media. He’s on Instagram and Facebook! You can also subscribe to his YouTube Channel for access to his videos. 

Thank you so much for reading this post. If you found value from this episode, it would mean a lot to me if you would take a few seconds, write a five-star review and maybe share it with some of your friends on Apple Podcasts. I’d be so grateful! I’d also love it if you would tag Richmond, @richmondchampion, and me, @kyle_depiesse on Instagram with your greatest takeaways from the episode! 

Cheers to your success! I’m rooting for you. 

 

Kyle Depiesse Signature