Nineteen-year-old bull-riding sensation Tristin Parker shares his journey from his family farm to the National Finals Rodeo.
The rodeo prodigy from Winnie, Texas, has secured his place in rodeo history as Resistol’s Rookie of the Year. Tristin Parker made his way to the 2023 National Finals Rodeo as one of the youngest bull riders competing for the world title. With heavy hitters such as Stetson Wright, Sage Kimzey, and Ky Hamilton as fellow competitors, Parker’s $152,792.48 bag and 8th place world standing is nothing to overlook.
How does the 19-year-old bull rider keep his grit and determination while going up against the best in the sport? C&I talked with Tristin Parker about his road to the rodeo, being named Resistol’s Rookie of the Year, and keeping his cool under pressure.
C&I: You were named one of Resistol’s Rookies of the Year in 2023. What was your reaction when you found out?
Tristin Parker: I found out right after the last day of [The] Ellensburg [Rodeo, Labor Day Weekend]. I got back in my van with all the spurs and coolers and all that, and my mom called me and said, “I’m pretty sure you just made it to the NFR.” I was a little teary-eyed because this is what I was shooting for all year. It was my goal to win Rookie and make the finals. Every time I set a goal, I somehow always end up making it happen. So, I’m just going to continue to set goals.
C&I: This was the first NFR you’ve ever attended. What experiences stood out to you?
Parker: Everyone tells you the energy behind the bucking chutes is a lot different than any rodeo. I know the first day, I was really nervous, so I may not have competed to the best of my advantage, but I knew that the second to the tenth days would be my days. But that first day was a little nerve-racking.
C&I: How do you prep yourself for a major competition?
Parker: All I did was practice up. I’ve never been to any finals this big in my life. I just stayed with the basics like I’ve been doing, getting on a couple of practice bulls here and there. Now that I’ve finally healed up and feel 100 percent, I was just dying of excitement. I was ready.
C&I: You’ve been competing professionally since 2022. How have you changed as an athlete since then?
Parker: In 2022, I went to a couple of rodeos the last four months of that year. I think I only won about $4,300. It’s just like stepping up to any new thing. You know you’re going to buck off until you figure out the rhythm, the strength, and the power of all those new bulls. So, I guess I finally figured it out. I just wanted it bad enough, and I just had to go out there and get it. I just started doing my job.
C&I: Could you talk about your introduction to rodeo?
Parker: I only have one person that rodeos in my family. That’s my grandpa. He was a team roper. They always had the little calves and steers out there, and me and my brother would go jump on them in the pasture whenever they were laying down, and that’s how I learned how to ride a bull.
C&I: When did you realize you wanted to pursue bull riding professionally?
Parker: I’d say as soon as I turned 19 is when I really realized I wanted it. I was going to go to college after I turned 18. The day I went to leave, I was going to tell my dad goodbye and he handed me my pro card. He was like, “I think you should just pro rodeo.”
I never really wanted to do any more schooling or anything like that. I just like making money, so he helped me figure out that this was the best thing for me professionally. There’s so much money in it, and there’s such good people.
Never give up. Only the weak give up. Winners succeed because they don’t quit driving.
C&I: We’ve seen you rake in success after success, but I’m sure you’ve experienced some lows as well. How do you pull yourself through the rough patches?
Parker: I just go back and talk to my family. There was a point where I bucked off about 20-something bulls in a row, and I was just tired and ready to come home. Plus, I had a family member that had passed and I wasn’t doing too good after that. I was homesick and missed my family. I flew home for about three days, and me and my dad and mom had a really good heart-to-heart. They made me realize my success is what [my late family member] wanted. Just going back home, talking to the family, makes everything way better. It boosted my spirits again. I got that fight in me again that helped me finish out the year.
C&I: What is it about bull riding that keeps you coming back to it even when times get hard?
Parker: It’s the energy and the people. There ain’t no family like a rodeo family. Every time I’m behind the bucking chutes, I feel like I’m at home. Everybody is so nice and generous. And you meet new people every day, so you’re constantly adding new people to the family.
C&I: Who would you say is your bull riding idol?
Parker: It would definitely have to be Cody Teel. I’ve looked up to him since I was probably 10. I met him during one of the Arizona bull rides, and he’s really a nice guy inside and outside of the arena. And it really doesn’t get much better than that.
C&I: What do you want people to see when they look at you and your career?
Parker: Just a really good guy. I want people to look at me like they look at Stetson Wright or J.B. Mauney. I just want people to know they can come up to talk to me and I’ll be able to help them out in any way. I’d give anything for anyone, even if I didn’t know them. I’m overall a soft-hearted guy. I can’t lie.
C&I: What is your ultimate goal as a bull rider?
Parker: I want to be able to retire by the time I’m 25.
C&I: Is there a piece of advice you’ve received that has resonated with you?
Parker: Never give up. Only the weak give up. Winners succeed because they don’t quit driving. That’s what my dad always told me.
Check out our interviews with Lisa Lockhart, Sage and Alexis Kimzey, and Team Polaris.
Images: Courtesy of Tristin Parker.