FRESNO, Calif. – A quick glance down the list of bull riders in the draw for a Built Ford Tough Series event and there can be a variety of riders with different riding styles and physiques found on the PBR’s marquee tour.
There is a group of smaller bull riders like current world leader Matt Triplett that bring a crowd to life when they conquer an 1,800-pound bull despite weighing roughly 150 pounds.
Then there are other flashy riders like 2013 World Champion J.B. Mauney that are known for getting every point out of a bull, or ones like three-time World Champion Silvano Alves that value consistency and the ability to churn out qualified rides with their eyes closed.
The same can be said about past World Champions. There have been tall champions such as 1996 World Champion Owen Washburn and short ones like two-time World Champion Chris Shivers.
Two-time World Champion Justin McBride likes to use the term “dressing up a ride” when describing riders, such as Shivers, that are able to elevate their game by another point or two based on their riding style.
“Well, it is not even an intention for some of them that do it,” McBride said. “It is just their build and their style. I always go back to Chris Shivers because he could do it on purpose. Ty Murray didn’t do it on purpose, that was just his style of riding. Ted Nuce did it on purpose. J.B. Mauney – that is his style of riding.”
Until last weekend’s 81.75-point ride on Earl at Iron Cowboy, Mauney’s last 23 qualified rides were all marked 85 points or higher.
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said before Iron Cowboy that Mauney is able to get the most out of a variety of bulls, which benefits him when he then makes 8 seconds.
“He has a style that compliments an entire group of bulls,” Lambert said. “He isn’t locked down in one position and moving up above the bulls. He gets a lot of points out of bulls. Some guys don’t.”
McBride added, “It is not even like for J.B. it is an intentional thing. He has a big open style and he is going to get every point out of one.”
Other riders that McBride noted for having a knack for dressing up a ride include, Stormy Wing, Chase Outlaw, who is now out for six months, Triplett and 2010 World Champion Renato Nunes.
“There is something to be said for a little compact guy like Stormy Wing,” McBride said. “They just look good on these big bulls. You are taking a 140-pound, 5-foot-5 guy and you are putting him on an 1,800-pound bull and it looks better than a 6-foot-3 guy. It just looks harder. It looks more exciting.”
Still, it is a dangerous game to get into when riders are looking to earn extra points instead of focusing on the primary objective of making the 8-second mark. Riders also have to be careful to not think about spurring too soon, McBride cautioned.
“I think a lot of the guys, not all of them, but the majority needs to make the whistle before they start worrying about the flashy part,” McBride said. “Let that scenario actually happen before they start playing out in their mind because at the end of the day, the points system changed, but the gist of it is the same. You go ride your bull.
“I have seen some guys spur a bull and you are like, ‘Yeah go get some extra points out of it,’ but then I am like, ‘Damn he shouldn’t have done that because all he did was show how easy the bull was.’ So it can take away.”
Lambert agreed with McBride and said the way a rider waves his free arm can help improve a score, but it can also seriously hinder their score.
“They can get docked by doing that too,” Lambert said. “If they move the free arm more, they can take the attention sometimes off the bull’s shortcomings and make it look like a wild ride, but you have to be a really good bull rider to be able to do that. It would be silly to try and get that technique down before he had the technique of being able to ride them all. The main thing is making the whistle.”
It is why McBride points out that good technique and pure talent can go extremely far in the sport. Just look at a three-time World Champion like Alves.
“It is not that he has a boring style either, he is just really good,” McBride said. “He is a textbook rider. He is going to get what the bull gives him.”
2012 Ring of Honor inductee Ross Coleman said he would try to ride at or below 170 pounds compared to his riding weight that was near 185 pounds if he were to be competing in the PBR today.
Coleman said that taller riders such as Tanner Byrne and Nathan Schaper, as well as heavier riders such as 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi, need to put a greater emphasis on being lean so that they can maneuver themselves well on smaller bulls.
“Even though I was a bigger guy, whenever I was successful, I was strong,” Coleman explained. “If I could do it all over again, I would dang sure be lean and be able to maneuver my body weight around as much as possible.”
While it is no secret being a taller bull rider can make things a little bit harder, it doesn’t have to be a hindrance. Sometimes taller riders will have an advantage against larger bulls, such as when Schaper rode Long John for 89 points in Kansas City, Missouri.
“It might have benefitted him a little bit there,” Coleman said. “He can kind of take a little bit more and get a deeper hold than a little short guy could have on that bull.”
When McBride was competing against Chris Shivers for world titles, he knew there were instances where he wasn’t going to be able to out-score the Louisiana bull rider.
Instead, McBride just worried about taking care of his own business.
“Chris Shivers was always going to be more than I was, but I knew if I rode my bulls, I could hang in there and bring it down to the wire and we would see who will win,” McBride said. “That is part of what makes Silvano so great. He has ridden a lot of the bulls. I guarantee you, low scores or not, come the end of the year he is going to be in the mix for a World Championship.”
Lambert added that if you look at the list of past World Champions, there has always been a variety of different styles and body sizes.
It is the rider that rises to the occasion that will find the most success and win the ultimate prize.
“There are some bulls that fit (a rider) and some bulls that don’t,” Lambert said. “Champions are the ones that make the most of them.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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