In the past year, Bonner Bolton went from the world’s No. 1 bull rider to paralyzed from the neck down to an international fashion model and semifinalist on “Dancing with the Stars.”
In 2016, Bonner led the Professional Bull Rider’s season opener ablaze before landing on his head when dismounting and suffering a near-fatal injury. The fall splintered his C-2 vertebra and Bonner was given only a one percent chance to walk again.
Yet Bonner has never been a stranger to danger, damage or endurance. In 2008, he tore his right bicep clean off the bone, sidelining him for nearly a year. In 2015, he came off a collarbone broken in four places to finish seventh at the PBR World Finals. Bonner continued to look challenge directly down the barrel going on to play Scott Eastwood’s stunt double in the major motion picture “The Longest Ride”.
Following a trying spinal fusion surgery and during a remarkable recovery, IMG Models approached Bonner for global management. The unexpected opportunity gave The Texas native new hope and further fueled his will to persevere through a difficult rehabilitation.
All in all, Bonner’s injury has not deterred him from his lifelong passion. While working towards his return to professional bull riding, Bonner has spoken at SXSW, been profiled in major magazines and newspapers, appeared in a campaign for Saks Fifth Avenue and posed for world-renowned photographer Mario Testino for a premier international men’s publication.
The 29-year-old credits his father, Toya, an old-school cowboy and 20-year bull-riding vet, with teaching him how to ride, take care of his body and maintain the fortitude necessary to stay on powerful, bucking bulls more than ten times his size. His health regimen includes hot yoga, cryo-therapy, water workouts, tai chi and a clean diet rich in fresh vegetables, fish, oysters, nuts and berries.
Bonner continues to blaze a trail for PBR cowboys with several brand shoots on the horizon while evangelizing the cowboy code of hard work, honesty, courage and compassion. “In different ways, the odds are stacked against anyone dealing with an accident, injury or illness,” Bonner says. “I'm thankful for what I've overcome, and I hope to help inspire and motivate others who face challenges.”