Jockey bucks family trend to ride bulls
Bull rider dropped horse racing in Tasmania to follow a dream
BULL rider Kyle Maskiell is a long way from his origins in Tasmanian horse racing but he’s certainly following his dreams.
Rural Weekly caught up with Maskiell while he was in Darwin, about to travel to Cairns to compete in the Georgetown and Mareeba rodeos.
The 18-year-old is the youngest rider on the circuit and currently ranked number two on the Australian Professional Rodeo Association standings.
“APRA is the association I am chasing the most and the goal is obviously to win the Australian title this year and I’m currently at number two,” he said.
“It’s been my goal for the year and I’m glad I’m getting close. But there’s five rodeos to go and it’s pretty tight – it’s still anyone’s title.”
He’s chasing a different destiny to family tradition.
Maskiell’s family has a strong pedigree when it comes to Tasmanian horse racing, with brother Jason and father Stephen both successful jockeys and grandfather Ken Hanson a horse trainer.
Maskiellspent 18 months working as a jockey as a 15-year-old, but he said bull riding had always been his dream.
“I got on my first steer when I was about 10 or 12,” he said.
“My grandfather was a horse trainer and there was a breaker there and he rode broncs and he said ‘come down and get on a steer’ and I just sort of fell in love with it.”
Tasmania has several rodeos, which allowed Maskiell to gain his ground.
In the past 12 months he made the shift to the Victorian circuit, where he was able to connect with professional riders who helped him transition to the Australian pro-rider circuit, such as Tully’s Sam O’Connor, who sadly suffered severe spinal injuries in a spill at a Rockhampton event this year.
He credits that past jockey experience with helping with skills such as balance in his current sport but otherwise there’s no comparison.
Coincidentally, his recent win in the Open Bull event at Noonamah Tavern Rodeo, near Darwin, was on the same weekend that brother Jason, visiting the NT for the Darwin Cup Carnival season, won three events in a day at the Darwin Turf Club.
“It was a good day for the Tassie boys,” Maskiell said.
The rodeo circuit offers a lot of appeal in terms of lifestyle.
“There wouldn’t be a lot of people my age who have travelled around as much as I have,” he said.
“It’s definitely the life. “We’re all best mates, there’s not a lot of competition between us fellas, it’s between us and the bulls at the end of the day.
“A lot of us travel around together in vans, all packed up full of bull riders.
“There’s a lot of time on the road between events.
“Our homes are scattered all around Australia, of course, and you meet a lot of people along the way, so there’s often somewhere to stay.”
Maskiell is keen to take bull riding as far as he can, starting with taking out the APRA title this year.
“Probably next year I will have a good go at the PBR and then I will take myself over to Canada and the States in the next couple of years,” he said.
HOLDING ON: Kyle Maskiell on Hamma Time at the Noonamah Rodeo, Northern Territory, on his way to taking out round two of the Open Bull. PHOTO: MARK WILTON