Female bull rider, U.S. Army truck driver aiming to inspire young girls

Karina Stelck competed in last weekend’s Roy Rodeo


Karina Stelck takes pride in being a woman in male-dominated fields. Not only does the Boise, Idaho, native serve as a motor transport operator in the U.S. Army, she also enjoys riding bulls in her spare time.

Stelck, who is currently stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, showcased her bull-riding talents at the Roy Rodeo on Sunday, June 2. She boarded her bull donning a bright pink helmet, much to the amusement of dozens of young girls in the crowd.

“I want to show that women can do anything, including one of the toughest things in rodeo in bull riding, and just inspire and motivate other people,” Stelck said.

She attended the Roy Rodeo last year and was interested in competing, but she had never ridden a bull before. Stelck first experienced the thrill of riding a bull at Lazy HK Bar Rodeo Company in Silver Creek in Lewis County, where she said she lasted “maybe a jump and that’s it” on the bull.

“The adrenaline of it and nervousness before and after were just incredible. I got hooked,” she said. “Once you ride a bull, there’s nothing like it.”

Over the past year, Stelck has jumped on a bull half a dozen times. While she admits she is still a rookie of the sport and has yet to cover a bull — or successfully ride for 8 seconds — she is beginning to understand the techniques and the do’s and don’ts when aboard a bull.

“All you can do is get on one of those big barrels and get the groove of it, watch videos and watch yourself and work on your techniques. Every ride is a practice and a learning opportunity,” she said. “I’m not good. I want to get good, but I’m not there yet. I’m still learning the process. It’s challenging. Hopefully I get better every time, and I think I am.”

Stelck said bull riders often don’t surpass 8 seconds on the bull until their 30th ride, but it’s a goal she hopes to achieve in time.

“I’m far off. I have a lot of work to do, and I don’t have the time to really practice as much as I want to. Every time I ride, I try to do something new,” she said. “You can always hope for the best though, or do better than last time.”

Stelck doesn’t have the time to practice because of her duties in the U.S. Army, in which she has served for two years. She said she was first inspired to join the military because of the love for her country and because of her grandfather who served as a marine in World War II and the Korean War.

“I never met him, but I look up to him. I honestly feel like he’s a guardian angel of mine, and there have been so many instances that someone was watching down on me,” she said of her grandfather. “I love this country, and I want to make a difference.”

Riding bulls is an escape from the stresses that military work brings for Stelck, but both outlets give her an opportunity to inspire young girls to dream big and to shut out the naysayers.

“Don’t let anyone or anything stop you. There’s gonna be those people that say that you shouldn’t get on that bull and that it’s too hard. I’ve had that many, many times and have actually backed out because of that. Just do what you want, and don’t let anyone say anything otherwise.”