by: Linda Madsen, Austin Madsen rides a bucking bull during a recent competition

Austin Madsen is not your typical 12 years old. Instead of video games and skateboards, Madsen is focusing on bull riding, eight seconds and diabetes.

Madsen, who lives in Sandy and attends Boring Middle School, recently placed seventh at the National Junior Bull Riding Association and is the reigning Oregon State junior bull-riding champion.

'I got my first taste of the sport when I was nine years old when I rode a bull at the state fair in St. Helens (WA),' Austin said recently while sitting at his home. 'I won $100 and that was it, I was hooked.'


Austin has lived with his grandparents, Walter and Linda Madsen who are his legal guardians, since he was three and doesn't see his mother or father very often.

'Even when I lived with my mom, I was always being taken to my grandma's so this is all I have ever really known,' Austin said. 'My grandpa and grandma have been the best and I know they love me and have been very supportive.'

When Austin was nine, he was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes.

Type-one diabetes is an auto immune disease that results in the permanent destruction of insulin producing beta cells of the pancreas.

'Austin is very diligent with his blood sugar tests and he is very aware with his blood sugar level,' Linda said. 'We have to keep up on him to check it, but he has done very well for his age.'

He is injected with insulin four times a day and has to check his blood sugar at least six times a day.

'When he was diagnosed, he said he always just wanted to be a normal kid,' Linda Madsen said. 'That was when he made us promise him that he could be a normal kid.'

Madsen had dreams of joining the military when he got older, but because of his diabetes he recently found out he will not be able to sign up for the military.

'I just found that out, but I will go to college instead,' Austin said. 'I just want to be as normal as possible and that was something I was hoping to do when I got older.'


When Austin was eight year old, he and his grandparents were participants in team penning which is a fast-paced event that gives a team of three riders on horseback from 60 to 75 seconds (depending on the class or the sanctioning of the event) to separate three same-numbered cattle from a herd of 30, and put them into a 16' x 24' pen through a 10' opening, at the opposite end of the arena.

While competing in team penning, he was approached about bull riding for a junior organization and an opponent asked him if he had ever thought about going to the fair in St. Helens and try it out.

'I did it that first time and I just got hooked on it,' Austin said. 'Once I learned that I could get college scholarships from riding, I knew this was something I wanted to do.'

Bull riding is an event where a bull bucks (sometimes 5-7 feet in the air), rears, kicks, spins, and twists in an effort to throw the rider off. This continues for a number of seconds until the rider bucks off or unties after completing his ride. A loud buzzer announces the completion of an eight second ride.

Throughout the ride, bull fighters move about the bull in an effort to influence its movements and enhance the ride. When the ride ends, either intentionally or not, the bull fighters move in to protect the rider from harm.

Riders are scored on a 0-100 points scale, with both the rider and the bull awarded points. There are usually two judges, each judge scoring the bull from 0-50 points, and the rider from 0-50 points. The combined point totals from both judges make up the final score for the ride.

Scoring is based on several key aspects of the ride. Judges look for constant control and rhythm in the rider in matching his movements with the bull. Points are usually deducted if a rider is constantly off-balance.

His first time on the bull, Austin won the event and won $100 and both grandma and grandpa knew he was hooked.

'When he won that hundred bucks in his first ever ride, I knew he was hooked,' Walter, Austin grandfather said.

Linda said all this came from a promise that Austin forced them to make to him when he was diagnosed with diabetes.

'When he found out (about his diabetes), he made us promise to him that he would not have to be a kid that sat in front of a television playing video games. He just wanted to be a normal kid and play outside and do the things he liked to do.'

Austin has ridden hundreds of bulls and has had events where his diabetes has affected his rides.

'There have been times, when I had a cold and it makes my blood sugar go up, I haven't been totally focused and I felt tired,' Austin said. 'Bulls have taken off from the chute and I fell off quickly.'

Austin has had small bumps and bruises, but has not been seriously injured, which doesn't make it any easier for Linda and Walter.

'Every time he finishes a run, we both ask him if he is done with bull riding,' Walter said. 'He always says no and that his just wants a re-match with the bull that had just thrown him. We both hold our breath a little during the run, but we know he has trained well.'

Both grandparents see the advantages of his riding as opposed to being normal.

'The riding has been a great thing for Austin,' Linda said. 'He is much more self-confident and knows that there isn't anything he can't accomplish if he puts his mind to it. Nothing has held him back and he keeps doing what he loves, we will both support him 100 percent.'


Austin said that he gets upset when people tell him that bull riding is cruel and he tries to let them know exactly what the sport is like.

Most bulls work the junior association for two to three years before moving up to the professional bull riding association. The bulls are treated like star athletes, usually getting fed three to four times a day of the best feed and are treated better than most riders.

'People are completely wrong if they think that riding is inhumane,' Austin said. 'The bulls are not tortured and not antagonized at all and once a bull stops bucking or doesn't seem to enjoy it, they are put out to pasture and raised to stud.'

The bulls are protected so much that riders are disqualified, fined and suspended for foreign objects or hurting the bulls.

'You can not have sharp spurs or foreign objects or riders are disqualified,' Austin said. 'If you cut a bull, you are disqualified and they fine you $1000 so they do not want any harm towards the bulls.'

Austin has hopes of joining the professional bull riding association once he turns 18 in six years, but he has hopes and plans in the near future.

'I want to win the Oregon championship again and then go to nationals and win the national junior championship this year.'

His grandparents say they will continue to support him and expect nothing less from him.

'If he puts his mind to it, he will do it,' Walter said. 'I never expect anything less than what he says he wants.'

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