How to be a bull rider

Professional bull riding is more of a lifestyle than it is an occupation. Those who do well in this sport actually turn pro. They usually started young competing in rodeos on the high school and college-level circuits.

Most had a membership in a semi-pro association such as the American Bull Riders Tour, or ABT, before they entered the ranks of the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) or the PRCA — Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

Professional Bull Riding is the most dangerous 8 seconds in sports. If you want to test your mettle against a snorting, bucking, angry bull, you need to learn how to train properly. And here’s how to become a bull rider.

1. Take a Bull Riding Class

Anyone from about the age of 12 can take a course in bull riding. Bull riding schools exist all over the country and usually consist of one to three days of training for bull riders of all skill levels.

Typically, these classes are taught by former riders who’ve retired and who know the ins and outs of setting a bull. Taking a bull riding class will help you develop the right mental attitude, as well as the form and technique you need to succeed in this highly competitive sport.

2. Compete in High School, College Level Competition

According to the bylaws of the organization, the main purpose of the NHSRA is to promote the sport of high school rodeo on a national level. Secondary rules govern good sportsmanship and conduct. Young bull riders who compete as members of the NHSRA have the opportunity to earn scholarships, along with national recognition. This is an ideal way to get your spurs in the door as a pro rider.

Once a rider becomes too old for membership in the NHSRA, as a college student, he or she can then join the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. 

Those who’ve spent their lives on the back of a bull without going the college route can join any number of local rodeo associations. These clubs are regional in nature and vary depending upon location. Or, if you think your skills are good enough, consider applying for membership in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. 

3. Apply for Membership in the PBR ( Professional Bull Riders)

Once you’ve spent years competing, won national recognition, and desire to turn pro, it’s time to apply for membership in the PBR — Professional Bull Riders. As a member of PBR, you’ll specialize in bull-riding only.

This allows you to focus and hone your skills and training. To become a member of PBR, you only need to be 18 years old. To advance through the ranks, however, you must complete and earn $2,500 annually. If you’re good enough, you might find yourself eventually competing in the Built Ford Tough Series.

4. Understand how scoring works

You’ll only receive a score if you stay on the bull for at least 8 seconds. The time ends when either your free hand touches the bull or your feet touch the ground and starts as soon as the bull’s shoulder passes the gate. The rider and bull are both given scores for their performance, which are tallied together to give the overall score.

5. Win the Competition

Riders generally compete over several rounds, and these may last several nights, each rider having one ride per night. Experienced riders can regularly score over 75, some may have the occasional ride over 80, and there may even be the odd exceptional rider that scores a 90 or over.

On the final night, the scores are all added up and the top 20 riders are all given one more ride. This final round is known in rodeos as the ‘short-go’ and the rider who has the most points following this is declared the overall winner.

6. Rules of Bull Riding

  • Rodeo competitions usually take place over a number of nights with each rider riding a different bull each night, matched in a random fashion.
  • Each bull that is to be used must be chosen to show the characteristics of strength, agility, and health.
  • The rider mounts the bull in a small enclosure known as a bucking chute where the bull is held steady where they can get a good grip and ready themselves for the start of the ride.
  • Once the rider has indicated they are ready and have a good grip of the bull rope, the bucking chute is opened and the bull rushes out into the arena, being ridden by the rider.
  • The rider must attempt to stay on the bull as it bucks, spins and twists to try and dismount them. By staying on for more than eight seconds, the rider can then be given a score by the judges. Failure to stay on the bull for at least eight seconds means the ride goes un-scored.
  • Throughout the ride, rodeo clowns stay close to aid the rider if they are thrown off the bull. They do this by distracting the bull, ensuring that they don’t injure the rider whilst on the floor and enable the riders to leave the arena safely.
  • Riders usually ride on bull per night on a multiple night rodeo with the top 20 scoring riders on the final night having one last ride. The rider with the highest collective score after this final round is declared the winner.

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