5 Things You Need to Know Before Bull Riding

What is bull riding?

Bull riding is considered as America’s most dangerous professional sport. The rider lowers himself astride on the bare back of the bull. For eight seconds, the rider must stay mounted with one hand in the air for eight seconds without letting go of the rope. The bull weighs around 500 kg to 1000 kg (1000 lb to 2000 lb), and the rider needs to deal with the bull’s high jumps and turns.

Injuries often happen to the rider onced stomped in the back or chest.Since 1989, there have already been 21 deaths with regards to the sport. This is more deaths compared to any professional sport.  

In 2003, competitor Mike Lee endured a brain injury after smashing skulls with the bull. Mike is just one of nearly 20 out of 100, 000 rodeo contestants who experience extreme injury while in the arena.

How did Bull riding originated?

First named as jaripeo, this contest of ranch and horsemanship skills developed first in Old Mexico in the 16th century.Bull riding was a variant of bullfighting and the riders used to ride the bull to death. In later years, the rules have changed to riders only mounting the bull until it stopped bucking.

In the early 1990s, bull riding was still considered too extreme to gain popularity to the masses. However, when there was an increase in the yearly prize money from U.S. $650, 000 to nearly 10 million dollars on the Professional Bull Riders tour, the sport gained regular national television coverage and rose to its popularity today.

It grew into an important spectator sport with growing fan clubs, websites, and followers of the tours.

On the present day, professional bull riding continues to attract a number of followers as it becomes America’s fastest growing sport. In recent years, public bull riding paid out $9 million to riders and $2 million to owners of the bulls. 

In the year 2019, J.B. Mauney became the highest paid bull rider. He earned $7, 370, 657.12 starting his career in 2006. With this kind of money, you’ll never need to get a cash loan from a legal moneylender to buy your dream caror to go to your dream global destination.

A number of people have already considered becoming a professional bull rider their lifelong dream. If you’re one of these people, then here are…

  5 things you need to know before getting into Bull Riding….

  1.  Know the pace of the sport
Only the bulls assessed to be of good health, age, strength and agility are selected to perform in bull riding.  Although some ranked riders are allowed to choose their own bulls for selected rounds in PBR, usually the bull is randomly paired with a rider.

When it’s the rider’s turn to ride, he mounts the bull in the bucking chute (a small enclosure) and grips the flat braided rope with his riding hand. He then nods to signal that he’s ready to be released to the arena.

Then the chute is opened and the bull storms to the arena, bucking, rearing, spinning and twisting.

His goal as the rider is to stay on the bull for eight second with his riding hand. If he touches the bull with his free hand, he’s considered off the bull.

After eight seconds, a loud buzzer announces completion of the eight-second ride. Then, the rider mounts off and tries to get as far away from the bull to avoid getting stomped. When the rider is mounted off the bull any time during the ride,  bullfighters or rodeo clowns distract the bull to prevent the rider from getting harmed.

Usually, the rider can ride one bull per night, and these rounds are usually called “go-rounds”. The total score of these rounds will determine the top 20. The top 20 shall ride the last bull in the final round, and the rider with the most points wins. The final round is called the “short-go”.

  1. Know the rules and scoring system

Scoring is achieved within a rodeo organization, and there are multiple rodeo organizations in the field of bull riding. However, most organizations follow rules similar to one of the largest sanctioning bodies, the PRCA.

This is how it works.

     The rider only scores if he rides the bull for eight seconds with the use of one’s riding hand. Touching the bull or the rope with the free hand means disqualification.

     There are four judges. Two judges score the rider from 0-25, and the two other judges score the bull from 0-25. The total score is determined by adding all the judges’ scores and dividing them into two.

     Because of their method of scoring, there is a chance that the rider could score low because of the bull’s performance. In this case, the rider has the option of doing a re-ride.

     The rider is given points for showing control and rhythm in matching their movements with the bull. Hence, if he gets off-balanced or lose control, he loses points.

     The judges assess the bull’s kicks and drops. The better the bull’s power, speed and overall agility, the better the score. At the end of the game, the best bull is given the award of the best bull of the year. This in turn gives honor to the ranch where the said bull was raised.

  1. Eight seconds of staying on the bull is not a piece of cake. Training is vital.
And of course, eight seconds of staying on the bull is not a piece of cake. Most starters are filled with fear and adrenaline, holding on for their dear life the first time they ride the bull. The 2000 lbs bull is going to be twisting and moving back and forth. 

Like I’ve said, losing balance and falling increases your chances of getting stomped and receiving catastrophic injuries -- even death. Hence, you can imagine the seriousness of the sport.

There are actually Bull Riding Schools that offer training to beginners and even to professional riders who want a tune up. An example of such is that of Gary Leffew’s Bull Riding school.

You’re also going to need to stay fit. This includes some core training, leg training and practicing a vice-like grip. Being healthy and fit will help you adapt in this physically demanding sport called bull riding.

  1. Always use the proper equipment

Since bull riding is the most dangerous sport, accounting for deaths and injuries far more than any other professional sport, it’s just crazy not to wear proper equipment. While you hold the back of the animal with a braided rope, you hold on for your dear life.

Use a leather glove thick enough to avoid friction burns on your skin but thin enough to allow you to grip the rope well.

Use a bull rope that is firm and stiff. Rubbing rosin over the tail of the rope will help create a glue-like texture when heated up with friction. This will prevent the rope from slipping. Note that slipping from the rope can result in you falling and getting stomped by the bull. Hence, a good quality bull rope is vital.

As of the protective gear, a helmet will save your life. The helmet used in bull riding looks like that of a hockey player’s helmet with a face mask. This protects the rider from a possible impact towards the bull’s horn.

Few years ago ,wearing a helmet instead of a cowboy hat wasn't so accepted”. However, accidents have been happening ever so often. One time, a bull stepped on the head of the rider when he fell. The helmet was crushed. But, iImagine if he only wore a cowboy hat. His skull would’ve been severely damaged. He would’ve been dead.

These days the helmet is slowly starting to get accepted in the bull riding community. To decrease the risk of rib fractures, also remember to wear protective vests designed for bull riding.

  1. Observe previous riders and the bull you’re going to ride

When you’re already competing, do your best to come early to the arena to observe the bulls that you are to ride. Studying their movements, whether they are fond of twisting, turning or bucking back and forth will help you prepare early and strategize.

If you’re not the first one to ride the bull, observe other riders as well. How are they adjusting to the movement of the bull? How do they keep their balance when the bull twists or moves back and forth? Observation can help remove the surprises during your eight seconds ride.

Final words

People have different reasons for diving into professional bull riding. Some consider bull riding as their lifelong dream, wanting to be a world champion in the PBR. 

Some see the danger in the sport as the most exciting to them. They consider it as something that triggers one’s adrenaline as if it was skydiving.  And some do it as the means to an end, an end to their financial struggles.

Whatever your reason is for diving into the sport, you must train well. Don’t just train to win the sport, but also master safety while playing the sport.

Fear is something that accompanies most riders in the arena, however instead of being paralyzed by it, use the fear to do what you must -- stay on the bull for eight seconds, and when you fall, do everything you can to get away.