PUEBLO, Colo. – Mason Lowe was lifting his fiancée, Abbey’s, luggage into the back of a taxi cab last month at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas when he felt an all too familiar, striking pain in his lower back.
Lowe nearly dropped to his knees as his back began to spasm a day before the start of Last Cowboy Standing.
“Damn, this is going to be bad,” Lowe thought to himself.
For the man that can handle 2,000-pound bucking bulls, Lowe’s biggest opponent this year has been an on-going bout of back spasms that was the result of two small fractures in his lower back.
Therefore, getting the victory at the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour last weekend in Decatur, Texas, was a confidence booster for the 23-year-old. Especially when considering the fact that he withstood back-to-back re-rides in Round 1, and was able to survive four bulls in one night of competition.
“I think so,” Lowe said. “My back ain’t too bad. It was kind of sore. I had to get on four head. I was just worn out and warmed up in the bucking chute. It was kind of back-to-back-back-to-back. It can kind of make you react instead of thinking about everything because everything is going so fast.”
Lowe had last attempted four or more bulls in one night of competition on November 13, 2015, at the Enid, Oklahoma, Touring Pro Division event. The Exeter, Missouri, cowboy won first and fifth place by going 3-for-5.
The J.W. Hart PBR Challenge was Lowe’s second event back since missing five weeks because of the back injury which flared up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
“I think when I was having muscle spasms it was compressing against them two small fractures and irritating them real bad,” Lowe said. “Other than that, if I don’t have them, I am good.”
The win in Decatur was also a little bit extra special seeing as it was Abbey’s 21st birthday.
“Yeah, that is pretty cool,” Lowe said. “A couple of years ago, we went to a little rodeo together in Ash Flat, Arkansas, and we both won. She won the breakaway and I won the bull riding on her birthday.”
For those wondering, Lowe didn’t just give Abbey a victory for her birthday. He actually got her a baseball cap she had wanted and a new necklace.
Lowe even lucked out after the gifts got rained on when he left them overnight in the bed of his truck inside a burlap bag.
“The next day, I was like, ‘Ah shit,’” Lowe said with a laugh. “It didn’t get that wet, though, so it is good.”
In Decatur, Lowe began his night unable to get out of the bucking chutes with Big Dutch. He then received a re-ride against Custer’s Last Stand before riding Blue for 86 points.
Lowe won the event with an 87-point ride on Bullrito in the championship round after having to tape his left knee following Round 1 when his leg awkwardly twisted because of his spur getting caught against Custer’s Last Stand.
“I had two bulls that came into my hand,” he said. “Usually I ride everything into my hand, so I was good to get a couple into my hand.”
Lowe earned 80 points toward the world standings and is ranked 11th in the world standings.
Despite missing time because of the back injury, he is still on pace to set new career-highs in riding percentage, qualified rides and overall world standings finish.
Lowe is 16-for-40 (40 percent) through 13 BFTS events. His previous best-finish was 19th in 2015 and last year he finished 21st after riding a career-best 22 bulls.
“Once you get on the Built Ford Tough and you are not winning all the time, it gets to your head a little bit,” Lowe said. “That is why I am going to some of these little rodeos. It kind of actually felt good to win one this weekend. It got my confidence up.”
It wasn’t easy forcing himself to stay home because of the injury, but Lowe’s confidence was such a wreck that he knew he couldn’t return to competition until he truly believed he could win.
“I didn’t have any confidence at all,” he said. “I was doing really good those three weeks from St. Louis to Kansas City, and then I went into a downfall. I was like, ‘Shoot, I don’t even want to go. I might not even do any good, so I might as well not show up.’”
Lowe originally wasn’t going to attend any summer bull ridings, but two weeks home after Last Cowboy Standing gave him the itch to get back on the grind.
The 23-year-old doesn’t plan to go every weekend, but he wants to make sure he is staying fresh this summer and keeping his back loose.
Lowe is next set to compete at the Dakota Community Bank PBR Bull Riding Challenge Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event in Bismarck, North Dakota, on June 16-17.
Lowe is one of 19 riders ranked inside the Top 35 scheduled to compete on June 16. Also competing are No. 3 Derek Kolbaba, No. 5 Jess Lockwood, No. 6 Chase Outlaw, No. 7 Stormy Wing, No. 8 Matt Triplett, No. 10 Cooper Davis, No. 12 Rubens Barbosa, No. 14 Cody Teel, No. 16 Marco Eguchi, No. 17 Cody Nance, No. 19 Fabiano Vieira, No. 26 Gage Gay, No. 27 Koal Livingston, No. 28 Dakota Buttar No. 31 Luis Blanco, No. 33 Brennon Eldred, No. 34 Cody Rodeo Tyler and No. 35 J.W. Harris.
Two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney will also attempt to ride Pearl Harbor for $50,000.
Fans can watch the Bismarck event exclusively on PBR LIVE beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Lowe is only 100 points outside of the Top 10 of the world standings and he could jump into the Top 10 with a sweep of the two Velocity Tour events in Bismarck next weekend.
“Yeah, I have been thinking about it,” Lowe said. “I was already in the Top 10 for a while, so last few weeks I sat down and thought I can be a Top 5 or Top 10 guy. I just have to stay on and stay healthy.
“Hell, I ain’t that far behind. There is a lot of room to make up this summer.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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