A native of Visalia, California, 30-year-old Bobby Roberts ended his 12-year PBR bull riding career in 2016. He’s also a horse shoer, a husband, a day worker, a well digger, a header, a heeler, and a stuntman.
Cowboys have a long history in the stunt industry, and growing up a handful of hours from L.A. doesn’t hurt. Neither does having friends who can help you get your foot in the door.
“My best friend, Dylan Hice, and his cousin, Derek Lacasa, are both bull riders and stuntmen,” Roberts said. “In 2008, Derek called me and asked if I would be willing to work on a commercial and, since being a bull rider and shoeing horses doesn’t offer real consistent work, I said sure.”
The day was a 12-hour stint that began at 5:00 in the evening and wrapped up at 5:00 the next morning.
“Throughout the night, all I did was sit on a bull in the bucking chutes, ready to go when they said go,” Roberts recalled. “When I got a check in the mail for $2,000, Derek asked me if I was happy with that. When I said I was, he laughed.”
The veteran stuntman knew what kind of windfall was headed Roberts way, though it would arrive piecemeal over the course of a few months. Ultimately, those 12 tedious hours netted around $16,000 for Roberts. Not bad for a day’s work.
Having made well over the requisite $3,500, Roberts was invited to purchase his Screen Actors Guild card, making him eligible for any future work that might come his way. Like the bull riding and the horse shoeing, the need for bull-riding stuntmen isn’t terribly reliable—it would be another two or so years before another stunt opportunity presented itself—but Roberts enjoys the work … though he’d be happy to pass on the auditions.
“I’ve been to a couple, and it’s not something I’d really recommend to anyone,” Roberts started. “You just go in a room with five people staring at you with a camera, and you have to act out whatever they ask you to do and just make believe.
“I feel like a complete idiot doing it. One time, three of us stuntmen drove to L.A. for an audition and, when we left there, not one of us thought we had a chance at getting the job.”
Turns out, Roberts and one of the guys did get a call to come back. And after that audition, it was Roberts who eked out the gig.
He’s spent the last few years getting to ride bulls from time to time, until more recently, when Hice, who was working on the set of “12 Strong,” called Roberts with a tip about a television show that needed someone who could ride a bucking horse.
“I high school rodeoed,” Roberts said, “and growing up ranching, I was always riding colts and bad horses that bucked a lot. It was kind of lucky, but also not so lucky, because I would always have horses given to me because they’d buck. So between the bulls and the horses, it got to where I could ride just about anything.”
Which isn’t to say that it all comes easy for Roberts. In addition to his roping arena, Roberts also has a bucking arena where he can practice riding roughstock, his saddle falls (falls that don’t involve the horse), and laying his horses down.
“You don’t just show up and fall off,” Roberts elucidated. “You need to practice it like any other thing.”
It’s a work ethic that has carried over from Roberts’ PBR career and into his team roping endeavors.
“I try to rope at least three days a week if I can,” said the Cactus-sponsored 6-header, 7-heeler. “I’m real lucky that 7-time NFR heeler Kyle Lockett lives right down the road from me. I’ll rope at his place and he’ll come to mine. He’s even helped me when I was riding bulls—pulls my rope, opens the gates, and even fights bulls at times when he needs to.”
Roberts credits Lockett; two-time NFR header Spencer Mitchell; and his wife, Jamie, who has had significant success in the reined cowhorse arena; with supplying him the great horses that have allowed him his own success in the arena. He also has heeler Marcus Battaglia to thank for a shared $10,400 check at the 2013 World Series of Team Roping Finale, where the pair finished 23in the #13, with 35.21 on four head.
“That was really the first big roping I’d ever gone to,” said Roberts, who also enters up at rodeos across the country and will be roping in the #13 again come December, this time heeling for Sean Pascoe, with whom he won the Porterville Qualifier, catching four in 31.24 seconds.
Having the 2013 experience under his belt, Roberts has a good idea now of what the Finale entails, and what kind of preparation is going to be required.
“One big goal I had was to rope at the BFI, and I finally got to do that this year,” Roberts said. “So I guess my next big goal is to win the Finale. I’ve got a great partner and he lives pretty close to me, so we’re going to put our heads down and do some serious practicing before we go. I like to do that so, if anything out of the ordinary were to show up, we’ll have a default mode that we can fall into and rely on that game plan.”
In the meantime, work has been picking up with the water well digging (another handy skill to have in California) and that television show that needed a bucking horse rider is filming its second season and has turned into a pretty nice opportunity for Roberts. So nice, in fact, that he’s not at liberty to discuss it. But if you happen to be flipping down the dial and catch a real ranchy scene, it might just be the work of that horse-shoer/day-worker/bull-rider/well-digger/team-roper/stunt-double guy you read about in The Team Roping Journal.