Jess Lockwood: Bucking the trend in the arena and on the ranch

It’s a 40° climb up the backside of the tree-covered hill wrapping behind the house of two-time Professional Bull Riding (PBR) world champion Jess Lockwood. Parallel sets of tire tracks running through the tall grass prove he’s driven his side-by-side ATV up this same path countless times since buying the property two years ago.

“Bull riding is not a fight. It’s kind of like a dance,” he explains over the bump-bump-bump of the ride. “When your partner moves, you follow. You have to be in sync. You have to be flowing with the bull the whole time.”

Driving up the next slope, he shifts into low gear. “I really wanted a sport side-by-side but wouldn’t have gotten much ranch work done with it like I can in this one. Do I take fun or do I take handiness? Unfortunately, I had to be an ‘adult’ and go with the responsible one.” This prudent self-awareness sounds peculiar coming from someone who at the age of 22 has already won two world championships (2017 and 2019) and earned over $3 million on the PBR Tour — enough to purchase his own ranch just a few miles from the house he grew up in, where his parents, Ed and Angie Lockwood, still reside. His goal is to one day buy the land separating the two Lockwood ranches to tie all the family’s land together.

Balancing a bull riding career on the weekends and being a Montana rancher at heart creates a hustle between helping his father and grandfather on the ranch and training for the next time he climbs the back of another fierce competitor. And of course he factors in spending time with Hailey Kinsel, who married Lockwood in October. Kinsel herself is a decorated champion who won the barrel racing world title in 2019, meaning she too knows the level of grit and determination it takes to be the best.

Champion at heart

Lockwood attributes his toughness and work ethic as a professional bull rider to the ranching lifestyle. “You look at [professional bull rider] J.B. Mauney and he’s never been in a gym in his life, but he works hard around his ranch every single day,” says Lockwood. “That’s the thing about ranching. You don’t have to go to the gym if you’re out pounding fence posts or carrying square hay bales or carrying salt to cows. That’s a workout on its own. You don’t need to work out in a gym if you’re doing ranch work. I do both.”

Coming from a wrestling background where he competed from the ages of 5 to 16, Lockwood worked with his high school wrestling coach, Frankie Schoonover, to train for his second world title.

“[Schoonover] knows what it means to come from a small town and make something of yourself. He kind of grew up on his own, really. [He] lived out of town and he would run into school, four miles every day. He knows the definition of tough.” Finding similarities between the toughness and grit required in both wrestling and bull riding, Lockwood compares his wrestling opponents to the bulls he takes on each weekend.

“I think wrestling teaches you hard work and obedience. In wrestling, to win a match, you have to have hip control, you have to dominate your opponent. It’s not a fight in a sense with your opponent; you have to flow and move off of what they’re doing. Same thing with bull riding: it all comes off your hips. You don’t fight the bull. You’re not going to win a battle with a 2,000-pound (907.2 kg) bull.”

No place like home

When he isn’t on the road, Lockwood proves every day that he isn’t “another body on the ranch” by giving back to those generations who have given so much to him. On his days home, Lockwood takes turns with his dad and grandfather raking and baling with Vermeer hay equipment.

“We’ve never had any trouble with the Vermeer balers. They do what they’re supposed to do and get the job done,” Ed says. “And ever since we got that second Vermeer 605N baler, I can’t keep Dad out of it.”

There was more hay making to do in 2019 than most years, as their Montana fields yielded a second cutting. In this part of the country, that’s having your cake and eating it too. Even with nearly 10,000 acres (4046.6 ha) to their name, some years the hay crop does not provide much, and their balers barely leave the shed. Putting up 2,800 bales last year was a noteworthy bumper crop, which Ed believes will be enough for two years feeding 300 black angus cow/calf pairs.

From the quiet pastures of Montana to the frenzied sports arenas he performs in across North America, Lockwood said the one constant is the cattle.

“I can go to New York City or to all those cool places, but when I get back here, this is home. I’d rather be here than anywhere else,” Lockwood says. “I don’t know anything other than ranching. Cattle is what my life is about. Whether it’s riding bulls or taking care of cattle at home.”

Vermeer is proud to sponsor Jess Lockwood. A rancher at heart with a passion for being a champion.