Foster McCraw of Navasota has been competing in rodeos since the age of five and continues to take steps towards his dream of becoming a pro bull rider, as he heads to the 2012 Youth Bull Rider World Finals being held Aug. 1-4, in Abilene.
“I rode my first sheep at Grimes County at age three, but I quit because he kicked me in the nose,” said the now 14-year-old McCraw, who will be a freshman at Navasota High School this fall.
At age five, McCraw returned to competition and hasn’t looked back since.
“I saw it on T.V. and wanted to do it. And everybody in my family rodeos,” said McCraw, who is the son of Julie Hathorn of Navasota and Sam McCraw of Grapeland.
McCraw said her son is the first family member to ride bulls, and actually started out riding on a bucking bull riding toy at the age of two.
As McCraw continued to collect buckles from riding, he won his first saddle at the age of seven, just one year after he started competing in the calf riding division – on his sixth birthday.
Though the potential threat of harm to her son was scary, Hathorn said she couldn’t deny that he was a talented rider, especially after he won the Red River Shootout calf competition at the young age of seven. And he also won the Future Pro Bull Riders competition.
“It was just another rodeo…I was just happy I won,” said McCraw.
At age eight, McCraw moved on to junior steer riding. And that was the first time his mother said she could tell he was somewhat nervous. After his first competition, the family enrolled McCraw in a weekend school.
“And that’s all it took. It scared me to death, although I’m more scared now. We did whatever he wanted. You have to support him – especially when it’s something he’s good at,” said Mrs. McCraw, who said though her son now competes in the senior steer division, he practices riding bulls at home.
McCraw was promoted to senior steer riding at age twelve, and took a two-year hiatus before returning to his passion for bull riding.
“It was such a big jump, he took a break. And when he came back, he was on fire!” declared his mother.
This year, McCraw not only qualified for World Finals, but also won first place in senior steers at the Texas Youth Rough Stock.
McCraw said his biggest supporter, besides his parents, has been his brother-in-law Ty Riddings of Navasota, who also rides bulls.
“I think he’s pretty good so I follow his steps,” McCraw said.
Though McCraw’s sister is 39 weeks pregnant, Hathorn said her son-in-law never thought twice about joining the family in supporting McCraw at the World Finals.
“He needs Ty and they practice and work together,” she said.
McCraw not only works hard at making his pro bull riding dream come true, but also started working in a woodshop last year, as a way of paying for his own entry fees for competitions.
Over a seven-year span, McCraw has won approximately 40 buckles. This is the second time he has qualified to compete in the World Finals, but his first time to have the ability to do so. Many thanks to local sponsors: Kolkhorst Petroleum, Imhoff Ranch, Team of Navasota, Jeff Nobles, and Ving Card Elsafe of Dallas.
McCraw said his biggest challenge in bull riding has been adjusting to new bulls and “stepping up to bigger bulls,” but he’s not afraid.
The teen even rode senior steers after he broke one of his arms. Three weeks after McCraw talked his doctor into giving him a smaller cast than recommended, in order to continue riding, McCraw won second place in a LaGrange competition.
“You can’t be scared; you have to have the mindset to do it. I consider myself my own hero,” said McCraw, who qualified for World Finals in February, after winning three buckles during a six-month series.
McCraw said he welcomes the challenge of competing against riders from all over the world.
“I like the opportunity to compete against better people. It makes me ride better,” said the young bull rider who plans to one day be a member of the PRCA, CPRA, CBR and PBR.
Other local finalists include Tayler LaFlash of Anderson, 13, daughter of Tanya LaFlash; calf rider, Lance Lara, 7, son of bull rider T.J. and Deanna Lara of Navasota; 5-year-old mutton buster Caden Jordan, son of Craig and Darby Jordan of Iola; mutton buster Hunter Garner, son of Anthony and Daisey Garner of Iola; and mutton buster Brody Williams, son of Nikki and Robert Williams of Iola.