Two-thousand-pound bulls, eight seconds to ride, and a roaring crowd! Who’s ready?
Bull riding emerged over the years from cowboys confronted by daily challenges on the ranch. Cowboys would have to break broncs and turn them into saddle horses, meaning they would get bucked around quite a bit. So what’s a little more bucking? If you were brave enough, you just might consider jumping on the back of a 2,000-pound bull. To some fearless cowboys, this sounded like fun! And thus, the sport of bull riding transpired.
To ride a bull, a rider uses a flat braided rope around the animal, just behind its shoulders and over the bull withers. A rope is key in the sport of bull riding. That’s all a cowboy gets to hang on! The tail of the rope is then looped through itself, and the cowboy wraps his riding hand using only his grip to hold him in place. A rider needs good flexibility, quick reflexes, balance, coordination, and a lot of determination to make that eight-second buzzer. After the rider gets situated in the bucking chute, he gives a simple nod, the gate swings open, and the bull gets to bucking!
Make no mistake about it, bull riding is extremely dangerous. It certainly takes mental toughness and a lot of courage!
Just like saddle bronc and bareback bronc riders, bull riders can only use one hand to stay on. The free hand cannot touch or hit the bull at any time, or the rider receives a “no score”. While spurring can add to a contestant’s score, in bull riding, they are judged simply for staying on.
Despite the danger of the sport, many cowboys love it, fans go crazy watching it, and it’s typically the most popular rodeo event!
For some bull riders, a trip to the RAM National Circuit Finals could be a long drive for a short eight-second ride. And the short ride can have a big payout or potentially no payout at all.
Coming to you from the Prairie Circuit in Duncan, Oklahoma, we spent some time chatting with Chris McCombs about the sport of bull riding. Chris, originally from Randlett, Oklahoma, was a contestant at the RNCFR in 2015 who has qualified to return and compete this April.
Chris has set high goals for the RNCFR this year. “Ultimately, I would like to win the average,” says Chris. “I was unsuccessful on two rides last year, but I hope that will change this year.” Though Chris wished for a better outcome last year, he still has fond memories of his time in Kissimmee. “The stock was great and the fans were awesome.” Chris shared that his favorite bull he drew to ride at the RNCFR in 2015 was Medicine Show from Pete Car Pro Rodeo. Someday he’d like a rematch with Medicine Show!
Chris says he grew up always watching bull riding on TV. When he was 10 years old, he told his mom that he wanted to go to the Burkburnett Junior Rodeo and give it a try. So Chris entered and competed in his first rodeo that year. He entered the steer riding and bull riding events. Even though he’d never ridden a bull before, Chris placed third in bull riding and first in steer riding. “I just dove in head first,” he says.
Twenty years later, Chris is still riding and loving every second. “There is nothing I don’t like about the sport.” Despite injuries including a broken ankle (twice – once he even needed surgery), two broken collar bones (at the same time!), a severe head laceration with concussion, and, most recently, a dislocated shoulder from riding at Cheyenne Frontier Days in the “Daddy of ‘em All”. Chris hopes to be completely recovered from injury come April. “You just have to tell yourself on a bad day or after a bad ride, ‘You can’t ride em all.’ Despite pain or adversity, you don’t give up on your dream.”
We wish Chris and all the bull riders who qualified the best of luck as they make their way to Kissimmee in April. Ride well. WIN BIG!
From under the hat quote:
“Trust in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean not unto your own understanding. In all ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” -Proverbs 3 verses 5 & 6