Dirteater injured, out of Professional Bull Riders for 3 months
Ryan Dirteater is sidelined with a back injury for three months after being bucked in early February during the Iron Cowboy in Los Angeles. ANDY WATSON/BULLSTOCK MEDIA
Hulbert resident and Cherokee Nation citizen Ryan Dirteater will retire after the Professional Bull Riders World Finals on Nov. 4-8 in Las Vegas. ANDY WATSON/BULLSTOCK MEDIA
HULBERT – Ryan Dirteater’s Professional Bull Riders farewell tour will be shorter than he planned.
The 11-time PBR World Finals qualifier and 2016 World Finals event winner announced in January his intention to retire after the 2020 season, but an injury derailed Dirteater’s hope to lead the all-Native Team USA Wolves to the Global Cup USA in Arlington, Texas.
Dirteater was thrown by a bull at the Feb. 7-8 Iron Cowboy event in Los Angeles. The Cherokee Nation citizen is now healing from three thoracic fractures and received an unwanted three-month vacation.
“My spine got compressed,” Dirteater said. “I’m doing chores, but I’m not able to pick up anything heavy. I can get on a stationary bike and work out. I will be ready when I do get my release. I think I am sitting 10th (in the standings) right now, but I will drop. But I should stay in the top 30. I would like to finish this season strong and make the finals.”
Dirteater called bull riding “a young man’s sport,” and said a career goal was to retire while still among the prime competitors. He always wanted to be off the bulls by age 30, and he turns 31 in April.
“I’ve been doing this since 2008, when I graduated from Hulbert High School,” Dirteater said. “I’ll have been doing this for 12 or 13 years. It’s like being in a fantasy world, being able to step up to the big stages in bull riding history. I was able to reach the elite level and make a career out of it. Most of my heroes have retired.”
With Dirteater injured, the Wolves finished sixth at Global Cup USA in mid-February. The veteran bull rider announced in January that he would permanently hang up the gear after the PBR World Finals on Nov. 4-8 in Las Vegas.
Dirteater would love to say goodbye to the sport with a world title – he has finished as high as fourth – but he will need to catch fire to make up the points lost while nursing his injury. An achievable goal is to grab his 10th win in a televised event.
“As you get older, the ground gets harder, and you see these 18-, 19-year-olds coming up who are hungry,” he said. “You have to perform at the very best level every year. If you don’t, you get cut and have to work your way back up. To do that every season, you need to be a self-starter and go-getter. I’m taking it in and enjoying every moment that I get because nothing lasts forever.”
As a CN citizen, Dirteater enjoys representing the tribe and American Indians in general.
“I love everything about the tribe,” he said. “I enjoy my family and friends, and where I grew up is where I’ll call home forever. I appreciate what the tribe does for us, taking care of people around here with housing and opportunities to go to college. The Global Cup was all about representing all Native Americans. There were three Cherokees on that team. We’re talented, smart, and we have the opportunities to go out there and change the world.”
He has all sorts of plans for retirement, but among them is enhancing his ties to the CN and its people.
“When I am done riding, I am going to keep learning,” Dirteater said. “I’ve been gone weekends with PBR, but pretty soon I’ll be able to go to the Cherokee National Holiday. I can see my family and friends and be around the community. I love talking to the elders and hearing the stories they tell. I want to learn more. I enjoy my land, being around the cattle – that is where I feel at peace. This is where my heart is and always will be.”