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Two Kern County bull riding champions headed to national competition

Both aged 14, Cole Young and Kai Sturn placed in the top two spots at the California Junior High Finals Rodeo in May, securing them a spot at the National Junior High Finals Rodeo.
Posted at 12:21 PM, Jun 21, 2024

    23ABC News went to their training facility to learn about bull riding and witness how these two became the best bull riders in their age group in the entire state of California!

    • The Funny Farm is a bull riding facility in Bakersfield where young bull riders Cole Young and Kai Sturn practice.
    • They will be competing in Iowa from June 24 to 28 at the National Junior High Finals Rodeo.
    • The goal of bull riding is to stay on the bull for eight seconds.


    Like many 14-year-olds, Cole Young is gearing up for his first year of high school, but unlike most of his classmates, he’s trying to break out –


    On the national stage.

    “Certain days I love it, certain days I hate it, but in the end, I come back to it,” said Cole Young, the California Junior High State Champion in bull riding.

    One reason he comes back: He’s really good at it, recently becoming the –

    “California Junior High State Champion,” Young explained.

    The runner-up for that title — his longtime friend Kai Sturn.

    “We’ve been friends for a long time, we’ve been rodeoing for this last year together,” Sturn said.

    Those titles have secured both of them a spot in the 2024 National Junior High Finals Rodeo taking place in Iowa next week.

    Young is from Bakersfield, Sturn from Tehachapi, but both practice at the Funny Farm, a unique bull riding facility on the outskirts of Bakersfield.

    “Been coming here for years, they’re like family,” Young said.


    Evenings of bull riding start with watering the arena to prevent dust.


    Then they comb the dirt.


    “I just do a lot of preparation, go to the practice pen a lot, and get on bulls every week,” Sturn said.

    At the Funny Farm athletes of different ages come to ride bulls and other stock – including Young’s brother, Lane - who hopes to follow in the footsteps of his brother.

    Those who practice at the Funny Farm typically only ride the bull once per practice, any more might cause unnecessary injury.

    “They load the bull up, I hang my rope,” Young explained.


    The riders use rosin on their gloves, a sticky substance they heat up with friction before the ride.


    The goal – hold on for eight seconds –


    Easier said than done.

    Young told me to be successful - the bull and rider must work together.

    “It’s kind of like a dance, you both have to do your part.”

    “The adrenaline rush when you get it, it’s just one of the best feelings in the world,” Young said.

    “It’s hard to describe, it feels amazing, just takes you back in time,” Sturn said.

    “Sometimes I black out while riding,” Young said.

    They're both motivated to grow at this sport.

    “The goals I have set for myself, make me want to get better every week and help me push towards my goals.”

    Both acknowledge they couldn’t have done it without support.

    “I do want to thank all my friends and family, without them I wouldn't have been able to get where I am,” Sturn said.

    Young and Strun will be riding at the national competition in Iowa on various days from June 24 to 28.

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