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  • 20 Questions with Rocco and Judd

    Do you guys think women or men are more mentally able to handle being a cowboy if it was their true profession?

    Rocco: For me, it's hands down women. For what I do, and the way I do it at the Arizona Cowboy College, the only male employee is me. Everybody else that works there are females. I would not hire a male hand.

    Judd: I'm going to have to ride the fence on that one. That 's a 50/50 deal. There's already a professional women's cowboy association, and they seem to handle their business as good as the men.

    Hey y'all!
    I'm wondering if y'all would make a show where there could be teens trying to win all-around cowboy? I'm 15 and love your show and have always wondered if y'all would make one for people my age. It would be a great experience for me and I'm sure for others as well! Please think about it long and hard if you would. Thanks a bunch, y'all! I love your show!

    Judd: No doubt, that's a good idea. We'll have to talk to the producers about that one.

    Rocco: I would love to do a show with teenagers. We both feel the same way about it. Teenagers and children are the future of our industry. We have this need about bringing boys and girls along because after we're gone, there has to be somebody to take over. So we've got a real interest with kids. It just hasn't happened yet.

    Could you please tell me how long it took you to learn how to ride a bull? My brother hasn't been doing it very long, and I would like to try and help him out with things.

    Judd: The learning process in bull riding is an ongoing process. I just happened to be lucky. My dad is a world champion and has a bull riding school, and so I was born around it. I kind of learned through osmosis, you could say. All my life it took me to learn. I'm still learning. Just pick a school and go learn from the best. There's an old saying, if you want to be the best, study the best and copy what they do. Pick out a good role model, someone your size and similar in height and weight, and either go to their school or go to my dad's school and he'll teach you how to do it right. There's not too many bull riding schools out there, and he's been doing it for over 30 years, and I'm kind of helping him out these days, and it's going good.

    Hi Rocco and Judd,
    I think y'all are great. My question is for Judd (still love you Rocco). Judd, I'm a huge fan of rodeo, and I was wondering if you're still riding in many rodeos. I haven't seen/heard much about you lately, and I was wondering if you retired or are injured.

    Judd: That's a good question. I had shoulder and knee surgery, and the last two years, I've just been trying to get healthy. ... After the show was shot this summer, I've been riding all summer in the California Professional Rodeo Circuit. I'm a two-time champion out there, and it's geographically where I live. So next year look out because I'm feeling healthy and ready to roll!

    Do you guys listen to country music? Who are your favorite artists?

    Rocco: Yes, I listen to country music. And I'd have to say if I were going to sit around a campfire with a few people right now, it would be George Strait, Lorrie Morgan and Toby Keith.

    Judd: I definitely listen to country music, and I'd have to say Shania Twain, Faith Hill and Gretchen Wilson.

    This question is for Judd. Do you have a girlfriend?

    Judd: Oh, man, I'd get killed if I didn't tell the truth. Yes! I do have a girlfriend, and I'm extremely happy. But Rocco is single! (laughs)

    I would like to know who chooses the contestants for the show. I looked at the photo gallery from the upcoming shows from Hawaii and I noticed one thing about all the couples -- they are all beautiful. There is nothing average about any of them. They are all in perfect physical condition. There is nothing flawed in their looks at all. For the next round of Cowboy U, how about some regular people. People who are not personal trainers or body builders. How about some people that look like real people. This is just an idea. I've enjoyed watching Cowboy U, and I look forward to seeing these new episodes. Thanks for a fun show.

    Judd: Bull riding is a major part of the show. It's half of the points, and to be a bull rider, no doubt about it, you need to be physically fit. It would be unfair to bring someone in there that wasn't physically fit and risk injury to them. I don't think they're just doing it for good looks. They're doing it for physical fitness.

    Rocco: We don't get to know or see any of these people until we ride up on horseback. We don't pick who it is. It's all done by casting. And to make the reactions better, they literally hide these people from us until that first scene when Judd and I ride up. That's the first time we ever see them.

    Judd, did you ever ride bulls professionally?

    Judd: Yeah, I'm a two-time California circuit champion, and I've been Top 20 in the world. Injuries have put me off the last couple of years, and I'm ready to get back into it.

    What is the best thing about being in the show?

    Rocco: What we do -- especially what I do -- working ranch stuff. Every year there are less and less ranchers. And less and less cowboys. They are driving trucks and doing framing work and working construction. With this show, if everybody enjoys it, I want everybody to enjoy it. And we want to make it fun and entertaining, but if there are three or four kids that take horseback riding lessons because of it, that they wouldn't have, then I've given back to the business. It's an industry that I love so much. If I get more people excited about our way of life and show what we do and get more people involved with it, I get a get a kick out of it.

    Judd: I think the best part of the show is watching city people become cowboys. Because it shows that you don't have to be born and raised on a ranch to be able to get good at riding a horse or riding a bull. Anyone can do it.

    Rocco, has there ever been a person come through that just really got on your nerves?

    Rocco: Yes. Second season. Chris. He was anti-everything that I did. He was the exact opposite. He was the negative of me.

    What is the best thing about living on a ranch?

    Judd: Freedom. You choose each day what you want to do. There's always things that you have to do, but just being out of the traffic and being able to ride horses and be around livestock. I breed bucking bulls for a living, so to watch a baby be born and raise him up and join the professional circuit as an athlete himself, they're like puppy dogs. You get attached to them.

    Rocco: It's living far from neighbors. It's the livestock. ... Every piece of mail that I send out, it says, "The cowboy knew that his life had a purpose. It was a gift from God, to be steward of the land, livestock and the people you love." And those three things -- everything I do, I try and emulate. If I can take care of those three things every day, then I'm a good person. And that's my three commandments. That and, ever since I was a little kid, my heroes have always been cowboys.

    Hey, this question is for both Rocco and Judd. If you weren't doing this show, what job would you be doing? What job do you have when you're not filming the show?

    Judd: I'm a stunt man and a wannabe actor. I've had some one-liners in some small movies, and I've had some television commercial stunts. And I raise bucking bulls and have had my own set of bucking cows, and that's what I do.

    Rocco: I am and have been for 15 years the senior instructor at the Arizona Cowboy College. What I do on the show is what I do for a living. It's the only place in the world if you want to learn all the things you need to know to work on a ranch. If you want to be a poodle groomer, if you want to be a vet tech, there's a school to go to. And if you want to learn how to be a working ranch cowboy, you come to the Arizona Cowboy College.

    Love Cowboy U, watch it whenever it's on. I also have two horses, and I love riding and being around them any way possible! I enjoy watching any horse-related show and going to local rodeos that come to town. My dream was to barrel race one day or show horses. Even just something as simple as to prance through an arena holding the American flag on a horse before a local rodeo started -- I would definitely enjoy. But I always thought I wouldn't get the hang of it (barrel racing and such) or that I was too old to begin such a career. My question is, "What advice do you have for young people who want to get into the western kind of field (riding horses, going to rodeos, wanting to barrel race etc) ... but don't know for sure if they'll make it, don't know if they are too old to start or have the best of skills?"

    Rocco: You're never too old. Believe me, you're never too old for a change. One of the attractive things that I like about horseback riding is that most of the guys that I ride with are 20 and 30 years older than me. In their '70s and their '80s, and they're still on horseback every day. So you can do it for a lot of years. And if you have a passion and a love for what you do and you make a commitment to it, you'll be good at it. You just have to make the commitment. Most people don't want to sacrifice enough to get really good at what they want to do. They go three-fourths of the way, and then they just kind of back off. But it's never too late for a change.

    Judd: The first thing they've got to do is get a job to pay for all the food they eat! And the gas the truck eats, and the trailer to haul the horse and entry fees. It's a responsibility. If you want to be a professional cowboy, it takes either a sponsor or a steady job, or you have to be darn good. If you're getting a late star, and you want to get into it, it's never too late. You need to pick an event, focus on it, find a good trainer and just get it done.

    Rocco and Judd: One of my dreams in life is to ride a bull. What is the feeling like to get on and ride a power bull?

    Judd: If you're in the eye of a hurricane, it really feels like it's easy. You're dancing with the bull. If you get out of that eye of the hurricane and you get into that power zone, it's your worst nightmare. It's an unbelievable experience. When you jump off and the crowd's cheering, and they hand you a check and girls are screaming, you'll crawl through the desert on your knees to get some more.

    Rocco: There's this saying, "Who says winning isn't everything? Hold my belt buckle while I kiss your girlfriend." (laughs) That's what being a cowboy is all about. It's an out- of-body experience.

    Do you have an address where I can e-mail Rocco at Cowboy U? I am convincing my wife to send me there for an anniversary and need some info. Thanks a lot.

    Rocco: You can contact me at

    Judd: And if anyone wants to ride a bull, go to That's got my dad's bull riding school on there.

    What challenges are there going to be on Cowboy U: Molokai? Is there going to be roping or team penning or maybe barrel racing?

    Rocco: This season we go for 17 or 18 days, and the biggest challenge that these people have is fatigue. For 17 days, they are uncomfortable. They are sleeping in a bunkhouse, we go out for four nights and they sleep on the ground. Not once during the entire 17 days are they comfortable. They are in new environments. They are with horses and cows they've never seen before. Everything to them is difficult. It's like sensory overload.

    Do you have a favorite horse? What's its name, what does it look like and what's its personality?

    Judd: I've got a little mare named Miss Piggy. (laughs) She runs all the other horses off the food, so that's where she gets her name. But I couldn't live without her. I live in the mountains, and it seems when all the other horses come up lame, I can always count on her. She's a tri-colored paint, and she's about 7 years old and a stout, stocky little sucker, and she can ride like the wind.

    Rocco: My favorite horse -- his name is Vaquero Viejo -- and it means Old Cowboy. He's a 7-year-old Appaloosa, and he's the best horse I ever stepped on. We used him in the first two seasons. He's actually, from what the Appaloosa Association says, he's about the most visible horse on the face of the earth -- a lot of TV, a lot of movies, a lot of magazines. He's the most recognized. He gets a lot of media stuff. He was on the front page of the Appaloosa Web site for three months last year.

    Some people go to your school for vacation. Where do you go for vacation?

    Judd: Hawaii! Oh, man, I rode bulls 10 years ago in Hawaii, and I've been in love with it ever since. I go back as often as I can.

    Rocco: Every day for me is Christmas. But ... National Finals Rodeo in Vegas. Every year.

    What's on your Christmas list this year?

    Judd: Uh, oh ... ratings! We want ratings for Christmas!

    Rocco: That my buddy Lori gets through this cancer thing she's got.

    Is it weird having cameras around when making the show? Can you and the contestants really act normal when people are in your face with a camera?

    Judd: You get used to it pretty quick. Pretty soon it's like they're not even there.

    Rocco: Everything is very well thought out. Nothing is scripted, but we do talk about how to do this. First of all, is it safe for the cameras to be close to what's going on? So where the cameras are, where they are placed, first of all for safety, and then not to intrude on the experience that's happening. So it's not as intrusive as most people would think.

    How is it different to do the show in Hawaii?

    Judd: The first season was at Rocco's, the second season was at my place, so I think for both of us, it was a new atmosphere. Even though I'd been there before, we never gathered cows on a ranch in Hawaii. The terrain and unfamiliar horses -- we're both used to riding our own horses.

    Rocco: For us, it was a different terrain. I live in the desert, and my cows eat cactus. And here it was 65,000 acres of grass, sometimes six or eight feet high. The cows would get lost in the grass.

    What kind of injuries have you had or seen during your years as a cowboy?

    Judd: Oh, man, I've had a broken arm, torn rotator cuff, torn MCL, knocked-out teeth, broken wrist. I guess the question would be what injuries haven't I had?

    Rocco: Oh, I've been really fortunate. Broke a couple of feet, a couple toes, a bunch of fingers and tore a shoulder. Other than that, I've been real lucky compared to a lot of people. The wrecks are a very dangerous thing to do. Any wreck that you can imagine, I think that Judd and I have seen. And I almost don't even like to talk about it. It's like taboo in what we do. We don't like to talk about it. Positive energy!

    Do people recognize you when you're out in public?

    Judd: Yeah, here in Nashville, especially Rocco's been getting recognized. It's kind of cool.

    Rocco: Yeah, you know Judd, this is the real deal. I mean he lives on the same ranch he was born on. I live on a ranch. But whenever we go to town, it's almost unbelievable. It's unbelievable how many people watch the show.

    Judd: It's like Bonanza. (laughs)

    Rocco: I went shopping today, and every store I went in, they've got my autograph hanging in the store right now. It's unbelievable. We went to the bar last night. Girls, guys, every bouncer knew who we were, and they told everybody in the bar, and people were coming out from the street. And that's the way it is at home.

    Is it more dramatic having couples on the show instead of single contestants?

    Judd: Well, that could go either way. I think it's tough to get more dramatic than Megumi, but it's fun to watch the couples argue and see how competitive they are against each other, even though they are working as a team. Especially Lance and Vicky.

    It's fun to see city slickers out of their element on the show. So I want to know what places make you feel most uncomfortable.

    Rocco: The most uncomfortable I've been in a long time is being in the CMT studio for the press tour. Because one of the great things about the show is that cameras are there, but they aren't scripted. It just flows. But when somebody sits me down and puts a camera in my face, it makes me real nervous. And that was harder than Flame Worthy because at least there were people. But sitting in front of the camera the other day with nobody, just everybody kind of looking at me, that was real hard.

    Judd: Shoot, I'm pretty comfortable anywhere I go! (laughs)

    Have you been surprised by human nature during the show?

    Rocco: I've been surprised by how far these people come in such a short time. I am surprised by most of them at how much heart they've got. I'm surprised, continually, that Judd and I ask these people to do things that's impossible for them to do in the short time they've done it. And they do it. I'm pretty proud of these people.

    Judd: I've been raised around my dad's bull riding school, and I've seen all walks of life come and go. And so I'm not really surprised by anything I kind of have seen over the years -- how people react when they are in stressful situations. And these people, some of them wilted and some of them rose to the occasion. And I think you're going to get a 50-50 ratio when you put 10 people in an environment like that. Some are going to weaken, and some are going to rise.

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