The Saratoga Sun -

Tuker goes NFR

1-year-old qualifies for bareback competition in Las Vegas

 

Courtesy Trish Carricato

Tuker rides Chief at the Cripple Creek Rodeo in Colorado on August 6. Tuker completed this ride.

Were one to read too much into his laconic nature, they might never guess that Tuker Carricato, 11, of Saratoga, is an up-and-coming junior rodeo champion. The young man's quiet demeanor is belied by a sense of confidence and competitive spirit that becomes evident once he opens up about his rodeo experience.

Tuker will leave Saratoga later this week to travel to Las Vegas where he will compete in the mini bareback competition at the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association National Rodeo Finals. There will be 35 riders competing in the junior division with Tuker. Tuker's father, Tony, says he is unsure of the rankings but Tuker is probably in the top 10 going into the finals in Vegas.

That's impressive enough until he tells you that in January of this year, he started out on a spur board, a wooden frame that teaches potential riders to lean back and spur the horse.

In February, he rode his first bareback horse. When asked how he felt the first time he rode a bucking bronc bareback, his answer was simple.

"Nervous," he said.

He said he watched a lot of other experienced rodeo riders to learn techniques, including those of a 14-year-old friend who placed fifth last year. But perhaps his best asset is his father Tony, who has been involved in rodeo for years.

Since his first ride in February, he hasn't slowed down, racking up wins at rodeos in four states over the course of the summer, and even finishing in third place at the regional qualifiers in Rock Springs in October. Only six competitors from the regional competition can progress to the finals in Vegas.

Tuker is a young man of few words, but what he lacks in loquaciousness, he makes up for with a strong, silent confidence. He's no braggart either, projecting a quality of true modesty in his interview with the Saratoga Sun.

His dad Tony and mother Trisha could not be prouder.

Tony himself is involved in rodeo and-when Tuker announced after finals last year that he would like to give the rodeo a go-he was supportive. His mother admits she worries about her son when he competes, but says she takes it one ride at a time.

"You just have to let each ride go by," Trish says. "I sit there crossing my fingers for all of it, holding my breath."

Rodeo is a difficult, dangerous sport, Tony says. "I have been hurt all sorts of times," he says. "It really comes down to being in good physical shape; the better shape you are in, the less you'll get hurt."

Tuker gets to learn from the mistakes Tony has made in the past, he said.

Earlier in the season, Tuker broke his foot after being bucked from a horse. He didn't really realize it was broken, but eventually the pain led his parents to take him to the clinic.

At the clinic, they were told Tuker's foot had a fracture. The doctors wanted to put a cast on the foot, but Tuker would not allow it; if he were in a cast, he could not compete in his next rodeo.

Instead, the doctors put a removable walking boot on Tuker's foot.

Courtesy Trish Carricato

Tuker before his qualifying ride in Rock Springs.

Tuker has worked hard all season to do as well as he has, his dad says, and the young man was not about to let a minor fracture derail his chance to compete at finals in Las Vegas.

One day, Tuker says, he would like to win the rodeo world championship. If his nascent career thus far is any indication, it would seem he has the grit, competitive spirit and character to do so. But first things first; Tuker wants to do well enough at finals to get on the junior traveling team which would take him to a variety of rodeo destinations, including Odessa, Texas, in January, and even to the famed Cow Palace in San Francisco later next year.

Tuker's first ride in Vegas will Thursday, Dec. 1, at 8 a.m., his mom says. After that early round, Tuker could go on to compete Saturday at 1 p.m. The finals for the juniors will be held Sunday. The rodeo will be streaming online at http://www.florodeo.com.

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