Bull riding is a rough-stock event where the contestant, bull rider, must ride the bull for 8 seconds to receive a qualified ride, and a score. The bull rider needs extreme focus, lightning fast reflexes, and the ability to stay calm under pressure to say the least!
There are many tools in a bull rider’s arsenal to help them conquer a task, that to most seems nothing short of impossible. The rider has a glove, rosin, bull rope, spurs, latigo, chaps, and riding pants. Obviously when you’re hanging on to a rope attached to a bucking tornado you’ll rip you hands a part if you don’t have something protecting your hands. Rosin is a substance that looks like a small rock, or some gravel. Before the event a rider will put their glove on, grab a rock, or several small pieces of rosin, and rub it against their bull rope, making the glove and the rope have a layer of this rosin on it that gets sticky when it gets hot. The rosin is applied to help the rider keep a strong grip on their bull rope during the course of the bull ride. The bull rope is the rope you’ll see the rider holding on to during the ride. These ropes are specially made for bull riding, and there are many different way to customize a rope to the rider’s preference.
One of a bull rider’s biggest asset to holding on to the bull is their feet. The bull rider puts spurs onto their boots to help them hold on, and to help make the adjustments they need to do to stay on the bull. When I think latigo, I think of it as the bull rider’s duct tape, it may not be an adhesive, but there’s many things you can do with it. Latigo is essentially leather laces used to tie on boots, gloves, can be useful in repairs to different items, and is the go to tool for cowboys and cowgirls alike. Its main use for a bull rider though, is as boot laces. With spurs being strapped on to the bull rider’s boots, and with the rider hanging on to a bucking bovine athlete for dear life, the bull rider would come right out of their boots if they didn’t have something to help keep their boots on.
Chaps, pronounced (SH-APS) are probably the most non functional thing a bull rider wears when riding a bull. I have heard many talk that some believe they help, and are extra friction to help hang on to a bull, but in all reality the chaps are for nothing more than to make a rider look good. They provide minimal protection, and friction. Finally, every bull rider will tell you that they ride in the same pants every time, and those pants never get washed. From my personal experience riding in the same pair of pants for every ride does have some competitive advantages. For one you need to be able to really move in everything you wear as a bull rider. If you are wearing something that is inhibiting your ability to move, then it’s inhibiting your ability to ride. Once you find a good pair of pants that you can ride in, then why fix what isn’t broken by wearing a different pair next time? Now different riders have different reasons for not washing their riding jeans, but most will tell you there are two main reasons. One you aren’t going to live with too many people who want you to be washing your bull crap covered jeans in the washer all the time. Also it is believed by most if not all that since a rider wears the same jeans every time, that all to their past experiences, and hard lessons learned are in every fiber of those jeans.
In bull riding, as in other rough-stock events, the rider must ride for 8 seconds to be qualified to receive a score as stated at the beginning of this article. The rider must ride for the full 8 seconds without committing a foul that disqualifies them from receiving a score event if they make a full 8 second ride. Bull riding is undoubtedly the longest 8 seconds in sports. There is no good way to explain just how long each second feels with the power of an animal that ranges in size, but can get up to around 2,300 pounds. The life of a bull rider is not for the faint of heart, or those with anything but a high pain tolerance. As it’s been said it is not if you get hurt, but when, and how bad. In 2014 I found myself having a string of bad luck getting stomped, horned, hooked, beaten battered, and bruised on just about every part of my body.
The bull rider, as all riders in rodeo are judged by a skilled rodeo judge that must be focused 110% to each and every move the bull and rider make in order to accurately make tough calls, and determine if a qualified ride has been made or not. The ride is scored based off of a possible 100 points, a possible 50 points for how well the rider does, and a possible 50 points for how rank the bull bucks. The 2 scores are then added together to give the full score of the ride.
When a bull rider arrives at a rodeo they check in and receive their “draw”. The draw list shows what bull the rider has drawn for that event. After that, the rider will often seek out the bull that they have drawn. They do that first, so they can see the size of the bull they have drawn. This is important because they may have to make an adjustment to the length of their bull rope depending on the size of the bull. Next the rider will pick out a spot on the bull pens to prepare for their ride. The rider will then hang their bull rope, vest, and such on the fence, and prepare it for the ride. That processes will be in another article coming soon. After the rider’s gear is set they will often stretch, and mentally prepare, the call before the storm if you will.
From this point on the rider will watch others, help others, or just relax until their bull is either in the chutes or in a line out of their pen waiting to get into the chutes. When the rider’s bull is out of the pen they will then take their bull rope off of the fence, and put it loosely on the bull, so that when the bull is in the chutes they won’t have to mess with it. The chute boss will the let the rider know when they are next to ride. The bull rider will then start their chute procedure, or ritual. Once the rider is all set to go they will “slide up” on their rope. When sliding up the bull rider will have their feet on the opposite side of the bull rope, and scoot up as close to their bull rope as possible, basically setting up on top of it. Very quickly after sliding up, the bull rider will nod their head indicating to the gate puller that it’s time to open up the gate, and let ‘er buck!
During the ride, the rodeo athlete must keep the arm that is not attached to the bull rope free from touching the bull or themselves, this arm is rightfully named the “free arm”. The bull rider uses that free arm to help them keep balanced. We will be posting a full article soon explaining the full ride, and what a bull rider has to do to have even a slight chance at “covering”, making the full 8 second ride. One of the most terrorizing part about bull riding is the fact that when the ride is over, it’s really far from over. Once a rider hears the buzzer indicating that a 8 seconds is over, the rider must attempt to safely dismount from the bucking bull who’s still working hard to send the rider flying. Then the rider must attempt to land clean without injury. Finally the athlete has to book it out of the arena to avoid any, or anymore injury. Once the buzzer goes off the bull doesn’t just quit, and stand still. for this reason dismount can be just as dangerous, if not more dangerous than the ride itself.
Thank you for reading this introduction into bull riding. We will be posting more rodeo 101 postings soon, including a more in-depth look at the other parts of bull riding. If you have any requests for things you personally want to learn about any part of rodeos please as always, feel free to Contact Us.
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