Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

November 14, 2019
World Champ of Bareback

Winning the world championship fulfills Jasen Olsen’s lifelong rodeo dreams 

Jasen Olsen always dreamed of making it big in rodeo someday.

His dream came true this year when he became the bareback world champion in two separate rodeo associations.

He earned his first big win at the Professional Senior Rodeo Association rodeo in Panguitch on Oct. 24-26.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Olsen said, who lives in Tooele. “I think my boys are more excited than me right now. They’re so excited.”

Olsen, 48, has been working for this moment for the past 34 years.

He first got into rodeo when he was 14, after watching his cousin win the rodeo state championship for his high school team.

“I watched him ride and thought that was the coolest thing I’d ever seen,” Olsen said. “And [I thought], ‘I want to be a cowboy.’”

At the time, Olsen lived on a farm in South Jordan. He rode his first horses in Tooele and fell in love with the bareback event.

Bareback riding has been compared to riding a jackhammer with one hand, according to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s website.

 To compete in bareback, a rider sits closer to the horse’s neck than they would during a normal ride. Their first challenge is to “mark out” of the chute. Marking out means the rider must keep both spurs touching the horse’s shoulders until the horse’s feet hit the ground outside the chute.

After they get out of the chute, the rider has to hold on to a strap on the horse’s withers for eight seconds while the horse bucks. Judges score each rider based on their spurring technique and their willingness to take whatever comes during the ride.

“Half of the score is for the animal and half is for the person riding it,” Olsen said. “The score is one to 25 for you and one to 25 for your horse. You always try to do better than your horse.”

Riding bareback isn’t for the faint of heart. In general, bareback riders suffer more injuries and walk away with more long-term damage than all other rodeo cowboys, according to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

Olsen himself has sustained numerous injuries over the 34 years he’s competed in rodeo. One of the worst happened when his horse flipped over and struck Olsen’s head. Olsen ended up in a coma for two weeks.

But no matter how many times he fell off a horse, he always got back on.

“It’s just always been my passion,” he said.

Olsen’s passion led him to become a state bareback champion for Bingham High School. After high school, he attended Boise State University on a rodeo scholarship.

His parents supported him, encouraging him to give his best on every ride. When Olsen was 15, his dad got sick with lung problems.

“When I was 19 or 20, him, my mom and my two brothers loaded up and moved to Minnesota for him to get a transplant,” he said. “Me and my dad made a deal. Our deal was [that] when he left, I’d take care of the business and when he got better I’d get my shot.”

While Olsen took care of the family’s farm and excavation business, he continued to compete in rodeo. By the time he was 23, he was attending 80-125 rodeos a year. His dad had gotten a lung transplant and was doing well. The future looked bright.

Everything changed in 1994 when his dad died unexpectedly. As the oldest of four children, Olsen felt responsible for his family.

“I told my sponsor I needed to slow down rodeo and take care of my mom and siblings,” he said. “I basically gave up my dream to go and take care of [them]. … I didn’t have any other choice than to do the right thing, and that was the right thing.”

Olsen got a full-time job to pay the bills, but he continued doing rodeo on the side.

“I went to like 30 rodeos a year,” he said. “I worked a full time job and then I did rodeo. I would work until Friday night, jump in the car, drive 12 hours to California, ride in two or three rodeos, and then drive back Monday morning. It was rough.”

Olsen shares his love of rodeo with all of his siblings and his five children.

“That’s what we do and what we love,” he said. “I have four boys who are all bull riders. I don’t know how they got to be bull riders because I’m a bareback rider, but they are. Go figure. … My daughter rides too.”

Olsen’s children helped him get back into professional rodeo. Olsen hadn’t ridden in a rodeo in years when his sons asked him to take them to a rodeo in 2015.

“That’s how this whole thing got started,” he said. “My boys said, ‘Let’s rodeo,’ and I said OK. I probably hadn’t ridden in nine years. I thought I was just their ride, but when I got there I found out I was entered and they’d entered me.”

His children are some of Olsen’s biggest fans.

“I love them to death,” he said. “Every time I ride, I can hear those boys and it makes me feel like I’m winning the world. Their screaming at me is so awesome.”

Olsen didn’t even realize he was leading the bareback event for the Professional Senior Rodeo Association until one of his sons sent him a text about it.

“I looked at it and I thought, ‘I’m doing better than I thought,’” he said. “Then I started going hard.”

When the Professional Senior Rodeo Association called to tell him he’d made it to the finals, Olsen realized just how passionate he was about making it big in rodeo someday.

“It [my dream] just never went away,” he said. “There was always a void. I didn’t know how much it meant to me until they [the PSRA] called me about a month ago and told me I was in the finals. I’m supposed to be a tough cowboy, but I had a hard time talking to them because I cried. It meant so much to me.”

It hasn’t been easy for Olsen to make it this far. There was a dark time in his life when he lost all faith in himself.

That’s when he met Teresa Schwab.

“Teresa Schwab had faith in me and helped me believe in myself again,” he said. “[She] taught me how to love.”

Schwab attends rodeos with him when she can. Regardless of whether she can be there in person or not, Olsen puts on a ring symbolizing their friendship before every ride.

“I always wear [the] ring when I ride … [and] it’s like [she’s] with me,” he said. “It’s kind of my thing.”

Part of Olsen’s drive to win the PSRA bareback championship came from his desire to show gratitude for all of the family members who cheered him on.

“I won not only for myself, but for everyone who helped me,” he said. “I’m excited. It hasn’t sunk in yet — it’s only been a week. It just hasn’t sunk in to think all those years, all those injuries, all the sweat, blood, everything that’s happened have finally paid off and I am the best in the world. It’s pretty awesome.”

In addition to winning the PSRA bareback championship, Olsen had his sights set on winning the bareback event in the National Senior Professional Rodeo Association finals Nov. 4-9 in Oklahoma.

“I want to prove beyond any doubt that I am the bareback world champion of 2019,” he said.

Olsen’s hard work paid off when he won all three bareback rounds in the NSPRA rodeo.

“I just won the round and the world,” he said.

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