This isn’t a story about how the West was won but of how the West won over Elizabeth Iorio. The Boston-born, four-star event rider, polo player and sociable blonde has quietly been building an empire of tougher sorts: Platinum Pistols Bucking Bulls.
“As a child I heard amazing stories of the West from my cowboy grandfather who was stuck on the East Coast due to work and family,” said Iorio. “I had seen the rest of the world but not the West. As I was getting ready for the  U.S. Polo Open, I went out to Wyoming to turn my off-the-track Thoroughbreds into top polo ponies. I saw the bulls at a rodeo and was mesmerized. I was determined to learn more about bulls and being a stock contractor.”
Iorio, who received the nickname “Platinum Pistol” while playing in the U.S. Open in Palm Beach, Fla., headed to the Professional Bull Riders Finals in Las Vegas and approached industry big man Cody Lambert for an internship. She claimed that in the beginning he laughed at her, but after learning of her equestrian background, he sent her to H.D. Page, who invited her to visit his D&H Cattle ranch in Oklahoma.
“I’m sure he didn’t think I would come. It’s a very ‘old boy’ sport!” she said. “But after that experience [as an intern with Page], I have to say a lot more men took me seriously because they realized I worked my butt off.”
Iorio and her assistant, Emily Dufort, run a 50-acre ranch in Paradise, Texas, and they are hands-on with the breeding, raising and training of the bulls. Iorio does the majority of the veterinary care. Their bulls and cows are marked with hot pink eartags, even though Iorio is familiar with her herd.
“Bulls have individual personalities just like horses,” she said. “I know which ones I can trust and which ones might hook me!”
She and Dufort also train event horses and breed Irish-Connemara sport horses. They use some of their horses to exercise bulls in the arena, noting that it’s a great way to train leg yielding, transitions and rein back.
She’s learned the differences in bulls—and how to pick a good one. They like to see a bull that spins and bucks close to the gate when released from the chute, one with a big vertical kick and spin that has energy and speed to its bucks. A good bull will not travel across the arena, as many bucking broncos do.
“Just as you can’t force a horse to love to jump, you can’t force a bull to love to buck—they do it because they like it. You can see them bucking on their own in the field,” Iorio noted, adding that the flank ropes used to encourage a bull’s buck aren’t tight or harmful.
Iorio and her business partner, Robert Johnston, put together syndicates on bulls with top potential. Because PBR events are covered live on television, many companies use a bull to advertise. In fact, CBS Sports Network recently signed an agreement with PBR to air 27 live hours in 2012.
“The big thing with the bulls—unlike the horses—is that they make money,” Iorio said. “In bucking bull competitions, especially for the 2-4-year-olds, they can make good money, and the finals can pay out up to $150,000. And once the bull gets to the PBR Built Ford Tough events or the PBR Touring Pros they get paid per outing. And owning a bull [in comparison to owning a horse] is so much less expensive.”
Iorio’s also launching Platinum Pistol Couture in early 2012. She and Johnston, as well as three other girlfriends, have helped design and market the new merchandise.
“I believe Platinum Pistol Bucking Bulls will bring a new fresh group of faces to the bucking bull world,” Iorio said. “Our bulls are getting better and better.”
If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more like it, consider subscribing. “No Bull: Elizabeth Iorio Goes Rodeo” ran in the January 2 & 9, 2012, issue. Check out the table of contents to see what great stories are in the magazine this week.