GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) — For many people, Ty Rinaldo is known as one of the best in the bull riding world. Now, a new documentary is premiering at Grand Junction, giving us a look at the former bullfighting champion.
Rinaldo rode bulls in high school and even received a college scholarship for the sport he loves.
“I don’t know, maybe I wouldn’t even have gone to college without bull riding,” Rinaldo said. “So I went to college and did well and in the pros. But bull riding careers don’t last very long. When your match is 1,800 pounds of muscle and you have 150 pounds of skin and bone, when you get hurt, most of the time, it’s pretty bad.
Rinaldo retired in 1993 after being injured at a rodeo in Delta while riding a bull named Johnny Rotten.
“He knocked out a lot of guys and a lot of guys didn’t want to ride him,” Rinaldo said. “He was dangerous and he had a lot of guys.”
After retiring, Rinaldo went into judging riding events and became a stock contractor for bull riding. To this day, he takes his bulls all over the country for different events and he even trains horse riding.
“I kind of coach the bulls and they’re great athletes,” Rinaldo said. “We treat them that way. They follow a diet, we work on them, we adapt them from time to time. We work hard with them and I hope it shows.
Rinaldo grew up on the western slope. He attended Central High School where he met his classmate and filmmaker, Don Cardona. Cardona’s interest in film began in high school, when he was taking a creative writing course.
“When I was in high school, I made a short film in a creative writing class to avoid writing the assignment,” Cardona said. “My dad had bought a video camera and I was playing with it and some of the guys in my class said ‘let’s make a movie’ so I approached the teacher and asked if we could do it and he said, I let you do it and if it’s bad you still have to write it down It went well 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 would move on and start working in sports broadcasting, which is how he became interested in bull riding.
“I had photographed bull riding when I was shortly out of college as a cameraman on one of the ESPN shows I worked on and just became a fan of bull riding” , Cardona said. It was so intense and very risky and I just thought these guys were crazy, they are crazy. So I became a casual fan over the years and watched it on TV.
Eventually, Cardona returned to Colorado, where he reconnected with Rinaldo and asked if he could film him and his bulls.
“Don’s business started within months,” Rinaldo said. “He said ‘Hey, can I come follow you for a few months?’ I said ‘oh heck yeah’ and it ended up being over two years in. He just did a great job.
Cardona began filming in 2018, intending to make short little clips for social media platforms. But after shooting multiple events, he ended up getting a lot more footage than he had anticipated.
“I never really intended to make it into a documentary,” Cardona said. “I was just going to do some clips to put on social media and the success of COVID and by the time I put it together it turned into a feature length documentary.”
Cardona said he had reservations and expectations about what he would find while filming, but said spending time with Rinaldo and other bull riders opened his eyes to how animals were treated.
“What I think I learned the most from shooting them is how well-respected these bulls are and how expensive they are,” Cardona said. “Each of them has their own personality and I saw that. One of them I gave a cookie to was really cool and the others you just had to be careful being around them.
This respect and sense of how these animals are individuals is something both Cardona and Rinaldo said they hope people realize by watching the film.
“I mean, when you go to a rodeo, you think the bulls just got brought in from the sail barn or wherever they are,” Rinaldo said. “But they are like racehorses. They have a mother that was a bucking cow a father that was a bucking bull and the lines and the pedigrees and the feeding programs. I mean it’s huge. You have to take good care of them. They are like our pets. They are big animals with horns, but we treat them like a dog or a cat.
Cardona presented his film at the Wild Ranch Film Festival in Arizona, where it won all eight awards it was nominated for, including Best Documentary and Best Cinematography.
“He was like, ‘Can I come and put you in charge of filming the bulls’ and all that and I was like, ‘oh yeah, come outside,'” Rinaldo said. “Loading the bulls takes about 30 seconds. It was funny he would be on the trailer filming the bulls with his camera and recording some stuff and it would take a while to set it all up and then he would accidentally miss the sound part and go ‘Hey can you guys unload those bulls? I had no sound and did not recharge them. so a 30 second task took you 15 minutes.
Now, Cardona’s film is gearing up to premiere 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 people’s reaction,” Cardona said. “I just want people to have a good time and come meet Ty and share stories about rodeo and movie making and Grand Junction and everything. So yeah, I hope it’s a good time.
“Buckin’ bulls: the Story of Ty Rinaldo” premieres at the Avalon Theater, with the red carpet event at 6:00 p.m. followed by the film and a Q&A session.
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