Blind Teenager Competes In Bareback Riding Events In Shawnee


Friday, July 11th 2014, 9:51 pm
By: News 9


The 22nd Annual International Finals Youth Rodeo draws 900 competitors to Oklahoma from around the world.

One of those cowboys is defying the odds.

Taylor Howell is an 18-year-old from a town just outside Los Angeles, which is not exactly known as a hotbed for rodeo.

But that's not the only thing he does that goes against the grain.

Howell wears shades because he's blind. Cancer robbed him of his eyesight when he was 2. He took up this treacherous sport about three years ago.

To score, a bareback rider must stay upright for 8 long seconds. Taylor Howell has done a few of those.

“During that 8 seconds, there aint much to see anyways; it’s all a blur,” Howell said.

If you catch yourself feeling sorry for this kid, don’t. He sees being blind in this kind of event as an advantage.

“I don’t think it’s a huge advantage riding the horses by the feel,” he said. “A lot of those horses, they will do some dirty stuff. They’ll move their head one way and the rest of their body will go the other way, and you’re looking at anything and not feeling it. You’re gonna end up on the ground.”

Howell finished “out of the money” this week. As a matter of fact, he took an ugly spill Thursday that still pains his backside. Clayton Biglow -- also from California -- won the bareback competition here last year. He calls Taylor Howell an inspiration.

"It takes your breath away, I mean, God bless him,” previous champ Biglow said. “He has the heart of a lion for doing it. I tip my hat to him for sure.”

Randy Gilbert is in charge of the organization that put on the International Finals Youth Rodeo.

“What a full life and an example he sets for all of us,” Gilbert said.

But to Howell, it’s nothing exceptional. It’s just his life.

“I kind of have a hard time understanding what’s so hard to understand about it,” he said. “But I guess if you stop to think about it – it is something different.”

Howell plans to attend Connors State Junior College in Warner, Oklahoma. He wants to become a professional bareback rider.