South Dakota man takes up bull riding to honor late brother
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Eight seconds for Jacob Herrboldt mean everything.
That’s how long the 26-year-old needs to hang on to the raging bull. It feels like an eternity.
He’s not an experienced rider. He didn’t plan on doing this solo, but he’s not doing it for himself. He’s doing it for Chad.
In May, the unexpected passing of Jacob’s brother Chad Herrboldt left him grief stricken. Chad and Jacob had lived and worked together on their family’s property in Tripp since 2014. His brother, who was by his side from dawn to dusk, was suddenly gone.
But Jacob’s grieving turned into determination. Before Chad had passed, the two had made a plan to start riding bulls. Chad was already an accomplished horseman, winning handfuls of competitions in his lifetime, but Jacob was new to the rodeo scene.
“I think about him a lot,” Jacob told the Argus Leader. “It’s what we wanted to do. I thought I would just go right ahead and do it.”
Jacob has been pushing himself to stay atop for eight seconds, the amount of time a rider must stay on a bull to receive a score.
Eight seconds for qualification. Eight seconds to hang on. Eight seconds for Chad.
Bull-riding bridged the brothers’ age gap
Growing up, Jacob and Chad weren’t as close as they were in the years before Chad’s death. A 25-year age gap paired with Chad’s time on the road kept the two brothers from connecting when Jacob was young. In his childhood and to this day, Jacob grew closer to his older sister, Fabre Sullivan.
“We’re just amazingly close,” Sullivan said. “We can talk about anything. Jake is a really good person, and I’m just really proud of him.”
As all three siblings grew older, Sullivan moved out to Sioux Falls, while Jacob moved onto their parents farm in Tripp in 2011. Chad would move in three years later. The two lived in the house just behind their parents’ home on property.
Along with living on the farm, the two brothers helped out with the family’s business of cattle farming and harvesting. Jacob focused on a lot of the manual work while Chad did the veterinary work with the cattle.
Meanwhile, Chad became an award-winning and well-known horsemen in team penning, a rodeo sport in which people on horses herd cows into penning areas in a designated time. He was always someone who was very serious about riding and was ready to compete with anyone else, Jacob said.
“He was good. He was really good,” Jacob said. “It was a lot of fun to see him compete. He was always really good about it.”
One rodeo that really stood out to Jacob and Sullivan was the Scottie Stampede in Scotland, a small town about 20 minutes southeast of Tripp. Its rodeo was engraved in both their childhoods and was the competition where Chad had some of his strongest finishes.
“Since we’ve been little we’ve gone to the Scottie Stampede,” Sullivan said. “I have memories of watching my brother and being with my dad. It was just an exciting place to be.”
“I think about him a lot. (Bull riding’s) what we wanted to do. I thought I would just go right ahead and do it.”
Jacob was also invested in Chad’s rodeo ventures. The two would watch the film “8 Seconds” together, which was about a bull rider’s journey to become a professional rider. Living together and all the talk of bull riding eventually sparked a plan between the two brothers.
“We had talked about going to rodeos, and he said he was going to get back into roping, and I said I’d probably start riding bulls again,” Jacob said. “We we’re just going to be travel partners.”
However, Chad’s personal struggles and hard-charging lifestyle began to distance himself from his family. Eventually, Chad moved off the Herrboldt property.
A few weeks later, a sheriff came to Jacob’s door to inform him the Chad was found dead of a heart attack. At 51, his brother was gone.
“It was hard that he was gone,” Jacob said, “but bull riding is something I wanted to do for him.”
A lesson from Chad: Getting back up
It had been eight years since Jacob rode a bull, and even then he rode as a hobby, not as a serious competitor. He and a few of his friends would ride at jackpots around the area and just have fun. Jacob stopped bull riding when he moved back to Tripp to work on the family property.
Jacob’s return to the sport created a sense of excitement among his family, but it also sparked fear that he was throwing himself into a dangerous sport in which he had little experience.
“I was scared to death that something was going to happen to him,” Sullivan said. “We’ve been at almost every rodeo Jake has rode at and seeing some of those guy get scooped up and thrown in the air gets us so scared. We’re trying to be excited, but I can’t believe he’s doing it.”
Along with the support of his family, Jacob has also received coaching from his cousin, Seth York. York, who has been riding bulls since he was 9 years old, would have Jacob come over to his house and work on various drills with his bull and horses.
York said the first time Jacob came over he could tell his cousin knew what he was doing, but all the pieces weren’t together.
“The old guys that ride say that it takes a good hundred bulls before you start to know what’s going on,” York said. “Bull riding is like a lot of sports. You have to work your way up to get better. Like T-ball to baseball.”
Getting on the bull, Jacob also knew there was work that needed to be done. He had to get back the muscle memory from when he rode previously, and he had to focus. A clear mind and a strong focus are the key into having a successful ride.
“You got to keep up with the bull and make a ride for eight seconds,” Jacob said. “It’s not easy as people think. You got to put everything out of your mind and focus on one thing, and it’s a big thing. You have to be ready to execute that plan, and it happens real fast.”
In the five rodeos he’s done so far, those eight seconds have remained elusive. His first ride in Irene — a town straight west of Beresford — saw him on and off the bull in four seconds, and the bull stepped on his leg.
“I had the fear of, what if he gets stepped on and he get paralyzed? Or what if his head gets stepped on?” Sullivan said. “But he got up. I told him he did great, and he went on to the next.”
Each time Jacob is thrown off, he gets back up. It’s a lesson in persistence and determination he learned from Chad.
“I’ve learned from him to not give up,” Jacob said. “You get knocked down, and you get back up again.”
Rides keep the memories alive
It’s been a rough year for the Herrboldts. In addition to continuing to mourn Chad’s death, the family lost a handful of calves in a winter blizzard, losing thousands of dollars. Harvesting hasn’t been easy, either, as record rainfall has stunted the growing process.
But Jacob’s bull riding has been a bright spot. Going to rodeos and watching him ride has made the tough year and the grieving process easier, Sullivan said.
“We’re all excited, and we have something to look forward to when he rides,” Sullivan said. “For (Jacob), it’s a big way for him to grieve because it was unexpected. ... Going to a rodeo where Chad was all of his life has made this a little bit easier.”
In the stable, Jacob’s head is clear. No thoughts or emotions run through his mind. In a manner of seconds, the ride starts and ends. But the crowds, the animals, the atmosphere bring him back to all of those times watching his brother thrive on the back of a horse at rodeos.
“I feel really close to him at all these arenas and rodeos I’m at,” Jacob said. “That’s where he was. That’s who he was, and that’s all he loved to do.”
In the stands, his family knows Chad is there making sure Jacob is safe. Sullivan said even her children know their late uncle is watching over him.
“I had my stepson with me the first night we went to watch, and he said, ‘I hope Chad is watching him,’ and it made me tear up,” Sullivan said.
And with Chad watching over him, Jacob keeps aiming for that eight-second qualifying ride, most recently at the Rock County 4-H Fair in Luverne, Minnesota, but there is one rodeo in particular that Jacob is pushing himself to hit that mark. On Aug. 10, Jacob will ride at the Scottie Stampede, the same rodeo where he grew up watching his brother ride.
Every ride has been special to Jacob, but Scotland is a family tradition. It’s where Chad left his legacy and where Jacob plans on continuing it.
“This is how I want to remember him,” Jacob said. “Even if I don’t cover a bull or win a buckle, it doesn’t matter. It just means a lot to me to get on the back of a bull for him.”
Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com