Jace Smith had been on Grand River Rodeo Company’s bull “Little Mudslinger” before.

“I had him in White Cloud, Kan.,” Smith said. “I was 84 (points) on him there.”

Smith drew “Little Mudslinger” again at the Franklin County URA (United Rodeo Association) Rodeo Thursday evening. This time the bull came out the victor. “Little Mudslinger” spun to the left out of the gate and Smith matched him jump for jump in the first couple of spins before being bucked just short of the eight-second whistle.

“I just got relaxed and he bucked me off,” Smith said. “He is one you should never buck off of.”

Though Smith came up empty handed on Thursday, the 21-year-old rural Ottawa cowboy has had some high points in his bull riding career. Smith said he grew up near Centropolis and started riding full size bulls at the age of 13. At the same age, he began competing in Christian Youth Rodeo Association rodeos, which is a local youth rodeo association for ages 3 to 18. Smith said he used to come to the Franklin County Fair as a kid and watch his friend Zack Parkin ride.

“He went to the College National Finals twice,” Smith said. “When I was little I used to watch him. I’d come to the rodeos and do the sheep riding when I was four or five.”

Smith doesn’t have a large family history of competing in rodeos, but his sister was a former Kansas State University rodeo queen, and his uncle, Randy Altic, used to ride bulls, he said.

After attending Pratt Community College for two years on a bull riding scholarship, Smith started his pro career. According to Smith, he went to Attica, Kan., one Sunday to ride bulls owned by Cooper Kanngiesser, former CBR (Championship Bull Riding) champion and 2005-2006 NFR (National Finals Rodeo) qualifier, in Kanngiesser’s practice pen.

“(Cooper) was nice enough to load around 40 bulls for us to get on and only three of us showed up,” Smith said. “(Cooper) said he needed to buck the bulls out, so I got on around 15 head the first day.”

Smith said Kanngiesser approached him about going pro and got him his PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) permit. From there, the two were traveling partners for a short time, competing at PRCA rodeos.

“I entered all the big rodeos around here,” Smith said. “The biggest one I probably went to was Dodge City.”

“I entered all the big rodeos around here,” Smith said. “The biggest one I probably went to was Dodge City.”

Smith said he won enough money to fill the permit, but he never made it high up in the standings in the PRCA or in the Prairie Circuit, the state circuit in the PRCA that includes Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

Smith now competes in the URA, CBR and NFPB (National Federation of Professional Bull Riders), as well as open bull ridings.

Last year, he finished 12th in the URA bull riding standings with $849.84 in winnings and qualified for the finals at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka. Smith said he won a go-round at the finals coming off of a back injury he sustained earlier in the season.

“Last year I got injured in Louisburg in an open bull riding,” Smith said. “It was a back injury that kept me out for about three months.”

Smith is back riding bulls now and said he has had several wins at open bull ridings, including a win at the “Better Than Nothing Bull Bash” in Ulysses.

Work has taken up much of Smith’s time now. He still competes at rodeos every chance he gets, but he hasn’t been able to hit the trail as hard as he used to.

“I run 400 head of cows for a guy in Allen, Kan.,” Smith said. “I go to three or four rodeos a week when I am rodeoing hard. I go to about one or two on a weekend now. I have only been to three URA rodeos this year.”

While Smith has had to take some time off, he has plans to continue bull riding, he said. He already is entered in a few upcoming rodeos.

“This weekend I am going to Sabetha, Kan., and Lenox, Iowa,” Smith said.

Sabetha hosts the Northeast Kansas Rodeo today and Sunday and Lenox hosts the Lenox Stock and Saddle Club Rodeo Thursday through today.