On the second anniversary of the death of Merritt pro bull rider Ty Pozzobon, the Ty Pozzobon Foundation and Canadian Pro Rodeo Sports Medicine Team (CPRSMT) have released the second in a series of mental health awareness educational videos.
The rodeo world was shocked on Jan. 9 of 2017, when Pozzobon, a beloved world-class bull rider, committed suicide at age 25 at his home in Merritt.
Pozzobon had suffered a number of concussions over his rodeo career and had been suffering from depression and anxiety in the days and weeks leading up to his death.
The Pozzobon family made the decision after his tragic death to donate his brain to traumatic brain injury research and, shortly after, the Ty Pozzobon Foundation was created to work with CPRSMT to promote the health and well-being of rodeo competitors.
Nine months after Pozzobon’s death researchers at the University of Washington announced Pozzobon had the first confirmed case of a professional bull rider with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a disease known to affect boxers, football players and other athletes who sustain numerous concussions.
His family has been vocal advocates in bringing awareness to the issue of mental and physical health in the sport of rodeo.
After Pozzobon’s death many members of the rodeo community worldwide have become more open in discussing some of the concussions and some of the other challenges facing the sport.
Former Riske Creek bull rider Hugh Loring came forward in the months after his friend’s death to discuss the impacts a career-ending brain injury from bull riding has had and continues to have on his life.
“I hope with more people talking about it, it will help others understand just how serious a head injury is,” Loring said during a 2017 interview.
“Maybe our little buddy could have still been here if we knew more about it. I’d like to learn more about it, myself, so I can help others.”
The first video in the series released by CPRSMT focused on concussion awareness, while the latest video released on the anniversary of Pozzobon’s death this week more broadly addresses the importance of mental health.
Ty Pozzobon Foundation president Tanner Byrne said they saw mental health as the next step in the continuation of educating those involved in western sports.
Three-time Canadian champion bareback rider Jake Vold, 2013 Canadian champion bareback rider Matt Lait, 2003 Canadian champion bull rider Jody Turner and Heard Wellness through Horses’ therapist Amy Monea highlight the list of expert commentators featured in the second video.
“Any athlete will tell you it’s way more mental than it actually is physical,” Monea said discussing the issue. “You can have your body physically ready but can you handle the mental game or the mental pressure? And if you can’t at the moment it doesn’t mean you’re a crappy athlete, it doesn’t mean you’re not successful, or you don’t have the potential to reach your dream.”
The video was fully funded by the Ty Pozzobon Foundation, with the latest piece also featuring some insight from psychologist Ann Pierzchalski.
“The central theme of this video from the contestant perspective is that: ‘it’s OK to say I’m not OK,’” Brandon Thome, vice-president of CPRSMT said.
“Our hope in this second video is that contestants continue to share when they realize that they aren’t OK. We want there to be a realization that there is help out there. We also hope those involved in western sport continue to learn more to take further care of themselves.”
Since its creation in February of 2017, the Ty Pozzobon Foundation has raised more than $250,000 to support and protect the health and well-being of western sports participation inside and outside the arena.
Rodeo athletes throughout North America have been fully supportive of the cause and Pozzobon since his death, with many friends carrying on Pozzobon’s legacy sporting ‘Live Like Ty’ logos embroidered on their rodeo gear.