Brett Monea may not have grown up in a traditional rodeo family, but the raised in Wetaskiwin County professional bullfighter grew up riding horses and surrounded by livestock.
When he tried out riding steers and more with a friend he quickly realized, “I didn’t like riding them as much as I liked protecting my friends getting on them.”
After recognizing his passion for bullfighting, Monea enrolled in a bullfighting school and began his career on the amateur circuit in 2001 before filling his professional certification in 2007.
In 2013 Monea was voted in to fight at the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR), which was the first year his feet got to hit the CFR dirt and to protect world class cowboys as they competed for the national championship.
“It means the world to me,” Monea says on having the cowboy’s trust and vote to protect them. “I think when hard work meets opportunity there is no such thing as luck.”
The allure of bullfighting for Monea doesn’t just stem from the adrenaline, although he says, “I love to be able to, I call it, manipulate chaos.” His career allows him to be around livestock and he believes that the bucking bull is a beautiful creature. It also allows him to push himself, both in the ring and outside of it.
Monea says that he considers rising to the top of an industry that he had no real roots in coming from a non-rodeo family is his greatest accomplishment in his career—that and being able to bounce back from injuries.
“Bullfighting is like race car driving,” he says. From bullfighting Monea has had three left knee surgeries and has broken his right ankle. “But I bounced back from it again stronger then I was pre-injury.”
Monea says that he will gladly risk injury again and again—an occupational hazard, to save the bull riders relying on him in the ring.
“I love protecting those bull riders,” he says. “You just never know, anytime the bull rider nods his head anything can happen. I plan for the worst and hope for the best. I love that challenge and it keeps me on my toes all the time.”
Part of that challenge is balancing his work life on the circuit with having a family, including two kids.
Before COVID-19 hit, Monea was focused strictly on bullfighting for his career, however as COVID-19 continued to shut down rodeos and slow down the industry in the height of its spread, Monea helped his wife as they focused on another endeavour—Rafter U7 Ranch and Wellness Centre.
Rafter U7 Ranch and Wellness Centre, located in Carstairs, Alta., includes programs for equine therapy, run by his wife Amy Monea, and equine enrichment. Most recently Monea has created the Ultimate Bullfighting Experience with former professional rodeo bullfighter Kynan Vine.
The Ultimate Bullfighting Experience is a program that allows anybody to try out bullfighting and see the inside world of what it takes, even if they don’t have the dream of becoming a professional bullfighter themselves.
Monea says that they have had people from all career paths, from hockey players to lawyers to ranchers try their experience; even giving them an opportunity to fight a an animal at their calibre if they are deemed fit.
Monea and Vine have since expanded this program to have a youth experience as well where they teach youth about livestock handling and the ropes of bullfighting before putting on a bullfighting show for them. Monea says this is a great opportunity for youth to be introduced to the animal.
He hopes to be able to take the experience on the road in the future, “our goal is to bring this to other AG societies and arenas.”
Monea isn’t the only bullfighter from the County of Wetaskiwin finding success at the top of the Canadian bullfighting circuit. Kristopher Buffalo, an Educational Assistant at Sacred Heart School in Wetaskiwin finds his adrenaline doing more than just working with junior high students.
The bullfighter from Maskwacis fought at the CFR for the first time this year and is currently recognized as one of the Canadian Professional Rodeo Associations top bullfighters.
“I came from a rodeo family so I grew up watching and being behind the scenes,” says Buffalo.
Buffalo, like Monea, started out his career by testing out riding but quickly found that he preferred bullfighting.
“I was an adrenaline junkie growing up,” Buffalo says. “I found that the rush was continuous for bullfighting.”
Buffalo says he was honoured to be one of the three bullfighters in Canada to fight at the CFR this year, a big step in his bullfighting career.
In addition to bullfighting, Buffalo hopes that through working with youth and his experience finding success as an Indigenous man in rodeo that he can inspire others to reach for their dreams. He would like to pursue teaching at a bullfighting school and get more Indigenous youth involved in bullfighting in the future.
“Dreams and goal setting is very real and possible for someone to reach those.”
His advice to those who want to get involved with bullfighting is that you should be an adrenaline junkie with athletic ability, and above all you need a, “calm mind when panic erupts.”
“It is full on, hands on, chaos.”
Buffalo hopes that he will be back at the CFR fighting for a second time in the near future, and to make the next career step and work the Professional Bull Riding Championships in Canada as well.