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College bullfighter loves his job

Sam Schellenberg's role is to distract angry bulls so bullriders can get back to the chute safely
MVT Rodeo Schellenberg flying
Olds College bullfighter Sam Schellenberg was sent flying into the air during a rodeo at the college on Oct. 24. Schellenberg says he wasn't hurt during the incident. Photo courtesy of Olds College photographer Abbey Iverson

OLDS — At just 24 years of age, Sam Schellenberg takes risks others shy away from.

He’s a bullfighter with the Olds College rodeo team.

His job is to distract angry bulls so bullriders can get back to the chute safely.

During an interview, Schellenberg was asked why he likes bullfighting.

“You’re going to call me crazy, but I have control. The way I see it, I have control,” Schellenberg said. “The bullrider can only do so much from the back of the animal whereas, when I’m on the ground, I know where I can put that bull, I know how I can take him away, and I know how where to go to get safe and to get that bullrider safe.”

Bullfighters aren’t necessarily the same as rodeo clowns. Although they too distract bulls from bullriders, rodeo clowns dress in wear makeup and dress in silly clothes.

Bullfighters don’t tend to do that.

“I mean I can dress like one and still do my job, but first and foremost cowboy protection is what I do,” he said.

So far, Schellenberg said, he has not been injured “severely.”

"No broken bones, no concussions,” he said.

However, he went flying way up into the air during the Olds College rodeo Oct. 24.

Schellenberg says he emerged from that flight unscathed.

Olds College rodeo team head coach Guy Kelley says there’s a good reason for that.

He said bullfighters wear flak jackets to protect them from bulls “so if a horn hits, you’re going to feel it, right? But it’s not going to do anything severe.”

Kelley said as a bullfighter, Schellenberg is "the smartest guy in rodeo” because he’s hired by contractors or rodeo associations to do his job, whereas bullriders only get money if they win.

"No matter what, at the end of the week, I get paid,” Schellenberg said with a smile.

Schellenberg says he’d love to do bullfighting for a living. But if that doesn’t happen he’s been taking courses at the college so he has a fallback career. Currently, he’s studying precision agriculture.

“I’ll be involved with agriculture, no matter what, and hopefully stay involved with rodeo either through Guy (Kelley) or through the college or as a bullfighter,” he said.

Schellenberg grew up in southern Manitoba. 

When he graduates, he’s looking at settling down in the Rimbey/Ponoka area.

“Alberta has always had my name on it; at least, I’ve always had my name on Alberta," he said.

He likes the fact that in central Alberta “It’s just not flat” and there’s a variety of agriculture – everything from cropping to livestock.

In addition, major cities like Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer are not all that far away.

“You don’t have to drive very far and you can find something,” he said.