Bullfighting is an underrated sport. At rodeos, much of the attention is on the bull rider, but what about the people outside the gate, standing in the arena, willing to go face to face with those animals. Bull riders have a goal to last 8 seconds on the bull, while bullfighters can go toe to toe with a bull for much longer.
Bloomfield’s Mike Schainost has been bullfighting since the young age of 18. According to him, theres no better rush than fighting a bull.
Some might venture to say he is crazy, but Schainost loves the sport. He also enjoys the perk of traveling and meeting new people everywhere he goes.
He first started bullfighting back in 2001 by helping his friends who where aspiring to be bull riders. He first performed in rodeos in Nebraska before branching out to other states.
Bullfighters usually work in pairs or groups and Schainost travels alone. That has allowed him to be a part of many groups and meet many new people. Over the years, he has become a very talented bullfighter with many connections.
“I’ve probably put on 100,000 miles traveling to these rodeos,” he said.
Schainost would reach out to rodeos and friends to see when and where he was needed. He networked himself until eventually the tables had turned and people were reaching out to him.
One day, he received a facebook message from someone asking him to travel to New Zealand to bullfight. Of course, he accepted the offer and agreed to do ten shows there.
Most recently, Schainost has returned home from a rodeo in Duncan, Oklahoma. This rodeo was bigger than any other rodeo he had been a part of. This was the National Senior Pro Rodeo (NSPR).
“My proudest moment hands down would be working this pro rodeo,” he said.
The NSPR was televised and can be seen on the RFDTV channel.
Schainost and other bullfighters who where at the NSPR were not competing, they were protecting the bull riders.
According to him, there are two kinds of bullfighting, protection and freestyle.
“You got protection, where you protect the cowboy and take control of the bull. Then you have freestyle where you just control the bull,” he said.
Protection can also give the bullfighter the opportunity to help the riders. Fighters can lead the bull a certain way, making it easier for the rider to stay on. This is legal as long as the fighter does not touch the animal.
Protection competitions are becoming more popular according to Schainost. These competitions score the riders and the fighters together.
Schainost has participated in both protection and freestyle.
“I don’t do freestyle anymore because it hurts,” he said jokingly.
Schainost explains freestyle as “you, the bull, and 40-70 seconds.” There is a mandated 20-40 seconds and then bonus time is awarded.
He tried freestyle a few years after getting into protection, once he felt comfortable and confident in his abilities. He was introduced to it while in the Midwest Bullfighter Association and he quickly made friends with other freestylers.
“We were all just as much an adrenaline junkie as the next guy,” he said.
According to Schainost, it takes a different mindset when going from freestyling to protection. The biggest difference is the amount of time performing and the stamina needed.
Just like bull riding, the object for bullfighters who compete is to score points. A fighter can score points by touching the animal and they also get scored on relative closeness all while trying not to get tossed in the air or stomped on.
Schainost not only participates in rodeos but he has also began teaching bullfighting and has been doing so for the last 3 or 4 years.
Bullfighters are very talented people who have to learn the many components of bullfighting. Footwork, positioning, timing, anticipation, reading where you are supposed to be and knowing what lead the bull is in are all components that not only earn points when competing but keep the fighters safe.
“It’s tough, theres a lot of moving, a lot of fakes,” Schainost explains.
His student, Ross Miller, was top 3 at the American Freestyle Bullfights in Sioux Falls.
Schainost is a successful bullfighter and teacher, but that is not where he draws the line. He also puts on rodeos with his mobile arena. He travels to Iowa a lot with his portable arena and will organize the whole event including finding bulls and riders.
“We can have a bucking stock event anywhere you want it,” he said.