When riding a 1,200-pound bucking bronc, 8 seconds can seem like a lifetime. Every twist and turn requires a precise response, and any error could prove fatal.
A bronc rider needs sharp senses. But what if one of those senses was removed?
Imagine strapping yourself to a bucking bronc while blindfolded.
It seems impossible, but not for 29-year-old Mac Coleman of Kerrville, who is completely blind.
Coleman placed first in saddle bronc riding in last weekend’s 63rd annual Tilden Lions Club rodeo. He is currently ranked fifth for bareback and sixth for saddle bronc in the Lester Meier Open Pro Rodeo series.
But, unlike his youth which was spent enjoying the rodeo arena lights and the sight of cheering fans, Coleman now rides completely blind.
He even had a full ride rodeo scholarship until he was shot in the face with a sawed-off shotgun.
“As soon as I got shot my whole world was gone,” Coleman said.
Coleman’s left eye was destroyed with 11 pellets and he took two in his right eye as well when he was 19 years old.
At first he still retained some of his peripheral vision, but was told that if he wanted to keep what little vision he had left he would have to quit riding. But soon afterward, even that little bit of vision faded away and Coleman’s world went black.
He didn’t get back in the saddle for 10 years.
Then while at a cowboy church play day in Harper in August 2012, Coleman decided to give riding a try while under the encouragement of his friend, Mike Wheeler.
“My biggest fear was I didn’t want to look like an idiot,” Coleman said. “As soon as I set foot in the saddle, it was like riding a bike and it all came back to me.”
On his first ride, he said his horse spun and he beat her to the front every time. He found that riding blind is exactly the same as riding with full use of his eyes.
“It’s all reaction,” Coleman said. “It’s just like anyone else would ride a bronc, you charge in.”
He said it took some time to get his seat back and has to pay closer attention and “feel it” when he switches his cane out for the saddle. He also said he had to get a tighter saddle for riding now too.
He said his father passed away before he got to see him ride again, but his mom, family and friends all help in making this possible.
“It all works out, the Lord helps me out and I owe it all to him,” Coleman said. “I’ve got the best support, my wife (Jody Moore).”
“I support him 100 percent,” Jody said.
Coleman said it took him about a dozen or so practice broncs to get back his feel for the ride. His efforts have paid off well. So far he’s won $1,300 in bareback and $1,210 in saddle bronc and said he was pretty sure he was in the lead for all-around in the Lester Meier series.
Lester Meier Rodeo Company produces open pro rodeo events across southern Texas. They returned for the second year in a row for the Tilden Lions Club rodeo on Sept. 7.
“They’re really supportive of me,” Coleman said of Lester Meier. “Some look at me like ‘you’re blind,’ but Lester (Meier) never thought twice. Even if I make to NFR (National Finals Rodeo) I would always do Lester Meier’s ones since he got me my start.”
He said he will be getting knee surgery in the near future and plans to attend a bronc school in the spring after that so he can get back into the swing of things in time for next rodeo season.
During the off-season, he listens to audio books through the Texas Talking Book program. He estimated he has listened to more than 100 of them so far and would like to write one of his own to inspire people with his life’s story and encourage others to get back in the saddle too.
“If I can do it, there ain’t no reason you can’t,” Coleman said.