It may be tough for most folks to understand, but local bullfighter Brad Boice can’t think of anything more exciting than diving into a ring with a flat-out raging, fierce, ready-to-do-battle bull.
And a recent injury didn’t do a thing to dampen his enthusiasm for freestyle bullfighting.
During the recent Steel Wheel Stampede in Stettler, Boice, 31, took a crunching blow to the chin from a bull during a reverse spin, resulting in a few cracked ribs, a cracked molar and a bloody gash needing 17 stitches.
“We had been practicing freestyling stuff since about the winter time,” he explained. “I’ve been raising a couple of Brahman bulls myself – one for fighting and one for bucking – and one that likes to fight and buck, so I get lots of practice time in,” he added with a laugh. “I love every minute of it – I wouldn’t change it for the world, even with the injuries and the impacts,” he said, adding that his recent clash with the bull on June 6th has actually helped raise awareness about his bullfighting. People have been coming up to him asking about his chin, he added with a laugh.
“I read the bull wrong, and went for a freestyle point which I would have won the competition with. The bull, however, ‘read’ me very, very well and I took a nice shot to the face. It was the worst impact I have ever taken in my life.
“It’s part of the game.”
The 1,200 lb bull pretty much scooped him up, slamming his horns into Boice’s head.
“I was almost knocked out – I was bracing for impact,” he said, adding he had been in the ring for about 15 seconds. “You are a target when you are in that zone.”
What would he have done differently? “Run faster,” he joked. “And not stood still.
“They want to hurt you – they aren’t there to tickle you. It’s really not a question of ‘if’ you’ll get hurt, but more a question of ‘when’.”
Even after being injured, and not knowing how serious the gash was at first, Boice was determined to head out for second round.
“They said, ‘Dude. you are pretty much cut wide open – we can see the bone! You are not going back.’ I thought, this sucks – throw some super glue on it, close me up and I’ll go back for a second bull fight.
“It’s like any sport – you get hurt; you get back up.”
Except when you land a deep cut that demands immediate attention, of course.
”That bull was very determined to do some damage. But I love it. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
All kidding aside, doctors later told Boice the injury missed his jugular vein by about one cm.
“It could have been my last day on earth.”
Bullfighting has a lengthy history in Boice’s family.
“My uncle Dave (Garstad) is actually in the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame for bullfighting and bullriding.”
His uncle Brian (Boice) and his grandfather (Frank Boice) were also among those who first brought Brahman bulls into Alberta.
So Brad grew up in in the middle of it all, and has loved every aspect of farming, ranching and raising bulls himself.
“Next thing you know, we are three generations into it.”
As to bullfighing, he just started freestyling this past winter.
“A couple buddies were bugging me, saying, ‘If you’ve got the skill set, why don’t you get in there and give it a try?’ I thought, you know what, you only live once.”
According to florodeo.com, freestyle bullfighting essentially combines acrobatics, ‘insane wrecks’ and a man trying to best a 1,200-plus pound fighting bull that’s out for blood. “You’ve begun to scratch the surface of what is freestyle bullfighting.”
For Boice, who also manages the Horn Alley Rodeo Company and The Good Ol’ Boys HFSC, the intense challenge is just part of the allure. When asked what he does to help prepare himself, he smiled. “I pray! Hard-core pray!”
Ultimately though, it’s just the intrinsic challenge and irresistible sense of risk that draws him in.
“It’s a lot of fun. I love the adrenaline – people are cheering you on, and it’s a whole new level of life,” he said, reflectively. “I wouldn’t change if for the world.
“I practice at home, too – sometimes about five days a week. I go and chase him around, and it’s a lot of fun. But you learn to jump a fence real quick if need be.” Of course, he gets all kinds of reactions when he tells people he’s a bullfighter. Perhaps the biggest question is ‘why?’ But the affable, good-natured Boice takes it all in stride.
“Some people like driving fast. Some people like shooting whisky,” he added. “I like chasing bulls.”
Find Brad Boice on Facebook at ‘Bullfighter Brad’.