Photo: JC Hester competes in Indianapolis where he placed third. (Photo courtesy of JC Hester)
Story by Charity Howk
Every athlete knows there is always a chance for injury in whichever sport they play. The sport of rodeo is no different, however what sets rodeo apart is that the injuries are more common and much more serious. Many rodeo athletes depend on traveling, competing and winning to support them financially. Missouri Valley College cowboy JC Hester knows all too well about the injuries that come from competing in rodeos, from his first concussion at only the age of eight to the broken arm that currently has him side lined from competition.
The Mississippi cowboy began his career rodeoing at the young age of 8 years old. He began getting on bulls at a local practice pen. Not everyone is lucky enough to find their passion in life at such a young age. However, the road was not completely smooth for the young cowboy.
After getting on about 20 bulls, he received a serious concussion. JC was unable to ride bulls, play any sports or ride 4-wheelers or dirt bikes for four months after the accident. Most children at this age would not want to continue such a sport after receiving an injury like that one. JC was already hooked. As soon as he was cleared by the doctor, he began entering rodeos.
JC continued to rodeo through the junior and high school ranks. As a sophomore in high school, he watched a bareback ride that changed his perspective. The ride was thrilling to watch and he decided that he wanted to give the event a try. JC and his step-dad began talking to friends they knew in the rodeo community and found a practice pen where JC was able to for the first time to get on the back of a bucking horse.
Riding bucking horses became JC’s passion and his main event. As a senior in high school, JC started looking into schools where he could continue his career as a rodeo cowboy and also further his education. He spoke with several coaches but one coach stood out from the others: Coach Ken Mason of Missouri Valley College. “He would call and just talk with me, not really try to recruit me, but try to get to know me and ask about how things were going and how I was doing rodeoing,” JC said. “He seemed to genuinely care about his team.”
At Missouri Valley College, JC studies Ag-Business and actively participates on the MVC Rodeo Team. This past year has been one of many trials for the Mississippi Cowboy. In July of 2012, he broke his arm in Estes Park, Colo., after getting stepped on by a bucking horse. His arm broke between the elbow and shoulder requiring surgery and requiring eight months of recovery time. For a cowboy who makes his living rodeoing, this is a devastating situation. JC said, “Being injured for that amount of time takes a huge toll on a guy both emotionally and financially.”
After finally being cleared by the doctor in February, JC hit the rodeo circuit again. The break had left him hungry to get back to the sport that he loves. From professional rodeos to college rodeos JC was going hard traveling all across the United States. Unfortunately, his career and his arm would take another hit in October of 2013 in Columbus, Ohio. A bucking horse kicked his arm, breaking it right above the plate that was already in his arm, once again requiring surgery. After three months of recovering, JC is once again faced with a potential third surgery in a year and half on the same arm.
No matter what injuries JC sustains, he will continue to rodeo and live his dream. JC dreams of one day competing at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nevada, and becoming a world champion bareback rider. His career may be on hold but his dreams are not.