By IAN GILLESPIE,
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST
Some jobs require you to sit at a desk, stand behind a counter, or perch behind a steering wheel.
But when Matt Mousseau goes to work, he leans off a galloping horse, grabs the horns of a running steer, plants his heels in the dirt and then -- if things are going as planned -- throws the steer to the ground.
"It's harder than it looks," says Mousseau.
The 26-year-old Mousseau -- who grew up near Hensall, north of Exeter, and now lives in nearby Dashwood -- won the International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) steer wrestling championship last month in Oklahoma City, Okla., making him the first Canadian to ever take the title.
This week, Mousseau is back at his parents' home in Hensall, recuperating after surgery on his left knee. He says he originally damaged the knee during a practice session about three years ago.
"Your knees, your shoulders -- they take a lot of abuse," says Mousseau. "But this is my only real injury."
As somebody who once injured myself while yawning, I can't quite fathom the forces Mousseau struggles with as a professional steer wrestler.
"I'm 205 pounds and the steer is another 650 to 700 pounds, so that's a lot of weight to stop dead," he says. "Plus, you're dropping off a horse that's running close to 30 miles an hour, and onto a steer that's running not much slower.
"It's quite an adrenalin rush."
And all of it -- at least for a world-class competitor like Mousseau -- takes place in about four seconds.
"It really happens so quickly, so you try to stay as calm as you can," he says. "But when you nod and you go for that steer, it pretty well comes down to muscle memory -- it's either going to be good or it's going to be bad."
Last season, it was pretty darn good.
After competing in 26 rodeos throughout North America during his first full season in the IPRA, Mousseau headed into the steer wrestling finals (held Jan. 16-18) in fourth place. He clinched the title in dramatic fashion by winning the fourth and final round with a time of 3.7 seconds.
His prize winnings for the year topped $26,000.
"Once you've done it, you're hooked," says Mousseau. "At least I am. I used to be an avid hockey player and played with some pretty good teams, but it (rodeo) gets in you. It's not just a sport -- it's all the travelling and the people you meet."
Maybe it's in the blood. Mousseau's parents are veterans of the show horse circuit, his uncle was an Ontario saddle bronc champ, his aunt was a barrel racing champ, his cousin is a calf roping champ and his grandfather is past president of the Exeter Rodeo committee.
"I always loved horses and my family's been involved with that for generations," says Mousseau. "After I took my first steer wrestling clinic (at age 16), I took after it pretty quickly.
"I just love doing it."