Mike White first made his mark in the rodeo world as a bull rider. The Louisiana-native 1999 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association World Champion Bull Rider is 43 now, and lives in De Kalb, Texas, with his roping wife, Hannah, and roping sons, Logan, 16, and Morgan, 8, who also loves baseball.
Q: You grew up competing in all the timed events and bull riding. You also exercised race horses as a teenager, right?
A: Yes, and I actually ran a few races. But I was a little thick to be a jockey, and struggled in sweat boxes trying to keep my weight down. I’m 5’ 6” and rode bulls at 140-145 pounds. To be a jockey, I would have needed to weigh 115-120. I decided to be healthy and ride bulls instead of starve myself to be a jockey.
Q: Who was your go-to person in such decisions?
A: My big brother Pat made me who I am today inside the arena and out. There are five of us. Pat was the oldest and I was the youngest. Pat was a really good bull rider, but he hated to travel. He’d rather work. Pat coached and trained me every step of the way in all I do.
Q: You were the 1997 PRCA Bull Riding and Overall Rookie of the Year, set a rookie bull riding earnings record and finished fifth in the world that year, right?
A: Yes, I went to three NFRs, from 1997-1999. I made my first PBR (Professional Bull Riders) Finals in 1999, and finished third in the PBR that year. I went to the PBR Finals 10 times before retiring in 2010.
Q: Talk about the crazy way your 1999 rodeo season played out.
A: Hats off to the guys who can stay on the road day in and day out, year in and year out. By late July that third year (1999) I was burned out, so I went home. I was winning the world at the time. I fell out of the Top 15, and by that fall my traveling partner, Myron Duarte, was double entering me to try and get me back in. I barely made the Finals by a few hundred bucks. I ended up riding eight of 10 bulls at the Finals, and winning the NFR average and the world that year.
Q: The bulls beat you up pretty badly. What was the worst of it?
A: I broke my neck at the rodeo in Salt Lake City in the summer of 2000. A bull belly-rolled real bad, and shot me straight down on my head. Rob Smets was the bullfighter, and he’d broken his neck three times, so he knew what to do. He held me down, and told me not to get up. At the PBR in Shreveport that next January, I rode Moody Blues and landed on my feet. Th en he stepped on my right ankle, and crushed it, so I had to have surgery. I was out six or seven months, and was only back for a couple of events when I got on Western Wishes at a PBR. I dislocated my riding-arm shoulder, and broke the ball in it.
Q: That was your right shoulder, as in your roping shoulder, too, right? What were your most memorable rides, and how did you know it was time to trade your bull rope for a team rope?
A: Yes, it was my riding and roping arm. Two rides that really stand out were riding (Dan Russell’s) Trick or Treat at the rodeo in Salinas in 1999, and riding Julio More-no’s bull Troubadour at the Tulsa PBR in 2008. In 2010, I was in a locker room somewhere, and I had just bucked off of a bull I felt like a high school kid could have ridden. I was frustrated, and wanted to be home. Chris (Shivers) walked into the locker room, and I said, “I think I’m done.” Chris didn’t believe me. I called my wife that night and told her, and she didn’t believe it, either. But it was really clear to me.
Q: How much were you able to rope during your bull riding career?
A: I played at it, but roping was a hobby when I rode bulls. Roping is a business for me now. Our whole family is pretty serious about it, and we rope every day. I work at my team roping now, like I did my bull riding back then.
Q: Do you head or heel?
A: I heel, and Hannah is my #1 partner.
Q: How much fun was that $100,000 win together in the #12.5 Showdown during BFI Week on June 22 at the Lazy E?
A: It was so much fun, and Hannah split $30,000 the next day in the #11 roping with our friend Brian Caldwell, who was responsible for me roping at BFI Week. I train some horses for him, and that was one of his horses I was riding. He’s a great friend, and I wouldn’t have been there without him.
Q: Talk about your business.
A: As MW Performance Horses, we ride, train and sell quite a few team roping horses. We don’t turn horses over very quickly, and mostly only ride higher-end horses.
Q: You also produce the Mike White’s Annual Pasture Roping and Beneﬁt.
A: Yes, we have the pasture roping right there in De Kalb. I’ve always wanted to have an event to help others, and last year we raised $60,000 that we split three ways between two families in the area and Ropin Dreams. We mainly try and help children who’ve dealt with cancer or something catastrophic in their lives. Having a pasture roping makes it some-thing different and special, and NFR and ranch cowboys enter. We have an open on Friday with a 75-foot score, and a #12 roping on Saturday with a 50-foot score. We’ve moved our 2020 dates because of coronavirus concerns from springtime to October 2-3 this year, and this will be our 11th annual roping.