GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) – To many people, Ty Rinaldo is known as one of the best in the bull riding world. Now a new documentary premieres at Grand Junction, giving us a closer look at the former bull riding champion.
Rinaldo rode bulls in high school and even earned a college scholarship for the sport he loves.
“I don’t know, I might not even have gone to college if I hadn’t been riding bulls,” Rinaldo said. “So I went to college and did well and got into the pros. But careers as bull riders don’t last very long. When your match has 1,800 pounds of muscle and you have 150 pounds of skin and bones, most of the time when you get hurt it’s pretty bad.”
Rinaldo retired in 1993 after injuring himself at a rodeo in Delta while riding a bull named Johnny Rotten.
“He knocked out a lot of guys and a lot didn’t want to ride him,” said Rinaldo. “He was dangerous and he has a lot of lads.”
After his retirement, Rinaldo began judging equestrian events and became a stock supplier for bull riding. To this day, he takes his bulls to various events across the country and even trains them to ride.
“I’m kind of the Bulls’ coach and they’re great athletes,” Rinaldo said. “That’s how we treat them. They’re on a diet, we train them, we tune them up from time to time. We work hard with them and hopefully it shows.”
Rinaldo grew up on the west slope. He attended Central High School, where he met classmate and filmmaker Don Cardona. Cardona’s interest in film began in high school when he was taking a creative writing class.
“When I was in high school, I made a short film in creative writing class to avoid writing the term paper,” Cardona said. “My dad bought a video camera and I was playing with it and some of the boys in my class said, ‘Let’s make a movie,’ so I went up to the teacher and asked if we could do that and he said I’ll let you do it and if it’s bad you still have to write it. It was well received and they showed it in front of the school.
After college, Cardona began a career in broadcasting, even working for KJCT in Grand Junction. Eventually he moved away and started working in sports broadcasting which sparked his interest in bull riding.
“When I was a cinematographer on one of the ESPN shows I was working on shortly out of college, I had been shooting bull riding, and I just became a fan of bull riding,” Cardona said. It was so intense and very risk taking and I just thought these guys were crazy, they’re crazy. So over the years I became a casual fan and watched it on TV.”
Eventually, Cardona made his way back to Colorado, where he reconnected with Rinaldo and asked if he could film him and his bulls.
“Don’s deal started with a few months,” Rinaldo said. “He said, ‘Hey, can I follow you for a few months?’ I said ‘oh damn yes’ and it ended up being over two years. He just did a great job.”
Cardona started filming in 2018 to make short little clips for social media platforms. But after filming several events, he ended up with a lot more footage than he expected.
“I never really intended to make a documentary out of this,” Cardona said. “I was just about to do some clips to share social media and the COVID hit and when I put it together it became a feature-length documentary.”
Cardona said he had some reservations and expectations about what he would find filming, but said spending time with Rinaldo and other bull riders opened his eyes to how the animals are treated.
“I think what I learned the most from this shoot was how respected these bulls are and how expensive they are,” Cardona said. “Each of them has their own personality and I saw that. I fed one of them a cookie, which was really cool, and the others you just had to be careful about being around.”
This respect and sense of how these animals are individuals is something Cardona and Rinaldo hope people will recognize when they see the film.
“I mean, when you go to a rodeo, you think the bulls are just going to be taken out of the sail barn or wherever they are,” Rinaldo said. “But they are like racehorses. You have a mother that was a stubborn cow, a father that was a stubborn bull, and the bloodlines and the pedigrees and the feeding programs. I mean it’s huge. They must be well taken care of. They are like our pets. They’re big pets with horns, but we treat them like a dog or a cat.”
Cardona submitted his film to Arizona’s Wild Ranch Film Festival, where it won all eight awards for which he was nominated, including Best Documentary and Best Cinematography.
“He’d be like, ‘Can I come and invite you to film the cops’ and all that, and I’d be like, ‘Oh yeah, come out,'” Rinaldo said. “Loading the bulls takes about 30 seconds. It was funny, he was up on the trailer filming the cops with his camera and recording stuff and it was going to take a while to get everything set up and then he accidentally missed the audio part of it and said ‘hey can unloads you the cops? I didn’t have the sound on and I’m reloading it.’ so a 30-second task took 15 minutes.”
Now, Cardona’s film is preparing to premiere on Saturday, May 20, 2022 at the Avalon Theater in downtown Grand Junction.
“I’m really excited, I’m a little nervous about the turnout and how people are going to react to it,” Cardona said. “I just want people to have a good time and just come and meet Ty and just tell stories about rodeo and filmmaking and Grand Junction and everything. So yeah, I hope it’s a good time.”
Buckin’ Bulls: The Story of Ty Rinaldo will premiere at the Avalon Theater with a red carpet event at 6:00 p.m., followed by the film and a question and answer session.
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