A year after it was established in the memory of the professional bull rider star, the Ty Pozzobon Foundation has already made strides towards changing the way professional rodeo athletes live their lives.

“When we lost Ty, we lost the Sidney Crosby or the Connor McDavid of our sport. It kind of made everyone have a real gut check and realize that if it could happen to Ty, it could happen to anyone one of us,” said Tanner Byrne, a professional bull rider who started the foundation in the wake of Pozzobon’s passing.

The goal of the foundation was simple: to protect and support the well being of rodeo competitors, both inside and outside of the arena. To that end, Byrne worked with Professional Bull Riding Canada to ensure that a sports medicine team was present at every single PBR Canada event last season, for quicker care and better insights to injured athletes.

Pozzobon was posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), suspected to have been caused by the numerous bumps he took while riding bulls.

In a sport where the athletes are only paid if they ride, and only paid well if they win, the motivation to get back on the bull after taking a shot is more than just cultural, explained Byrne. But Pozzobon’s passing was a wake-up call for many athletes on the circuit to take better care of their bodies.

Byrne aims to ensure those athletes have the tools, motivation and information to make better choices when it comes to competition.

“[We’ve] seen lots of guys going to the sports medicine team and to the health professionals and really taking it in instead of sloughing it off,” said Byrne. “They took it very serious and gave themselves the time to heal before coming back which was pretty amazing to see just in the first year.”

The success of having the teams on hand at PBR Canada events has pushed the foundation to set a goal of having sports medicine teams at grassroots rodeo competitions such as Little Britches rodeos.

“It’s always going to be dangerous. You’re always going to take a shot, and we’re not trying to stop concussions from happening — you’re never going to do that, especially in our sport,” said Byrne. “What we really need to do is educate ourselves.”

And while providing medical assessments for rodeo athletes has been a pillar of the work done by the foundation to this point, Byrne said the educational piece is being developed for the coming year.

“We’re going to do a series [of videos] about proper self care on the road, which includes proper diets, workout regiments and overall mental health care being on the road as much as we are. It will be used at schools and clinics to change the minds of athletes from day one,” he explained.

The foundation is also working towards creating a course for professional rodeo athletes, which will encompass money management and savings for life after the professional circuit.

The courses are part of a holisitic effort to improve mental health outcomes for rodeo athletes.

“Losing Ty, it pushed it to the forefront for me, and made me realize that I don’t want other guys to go through what I’ve been going through… and what his family has had to go through,” Byrne told the Herald.

Considered a rising star at the time of his death, Pozzobon’s passing has caused a number of former professionals to re-evaluate their own health and seek out better care, Byrne added.

“It’s pretty amazing to see that Ty has saved many lives, even in the first year,” he said.