Rodeo’s rough riders
June 30, 2007
The concept of bull riding is simple just stay on the bull for eight seconds and the ride is a success.
The act of bull-riding? Well, that’s something else entirely, says former bull rider and bull riding judge Chris Brundy of Coalville.
The annual Oakley Rodeo, which runs from July 4-7, will once again wrap up with a bull riding competition, featuring some of the best riders in the sport.
The sport of bull riding
Brundy says that bull riding is widely regarded as the most exciting event in professional rodeo because of the danger and excitement, which is why it is at the end of rodeos and even has its own Professional Bull Riding circuit.
"People watch rodeo to see the bulls and a person get bucked off," Brundy said.
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Other events in pro rodeos include saddle broncs, steer wrestling, barrel racing, calf roping, bareback riding and team roping.
In a bull riding competition, such as the one at the Oakley Rodeo, there are usually two judges. Each judge awards points for both the bull and the rider, which can total up to 100 points. According to Brundy, a professional rider will generally earn 20 points or more for their bull and the rider will score slightly higher than that.
The judges look at how the bull bucks to score them. The higher the front and back legs raise with each buck, the higher the score. They also look for belly rolls, where the bull kicks to the side, increasing the difficulty of staying in the saddle. A cotton flank strap is put loosely around the back of the bull to agitate them just enough to make them try and get it off, which is how the bucking action is achieved.
"The good bulls will kick high," Brundy said. "You really got to balance."
Bulls are expensive. Brundy says that the good ones can sell for as much as $100,000-$200,000. And because of that, cowboys put plenty of time and in effort into giving the best of care and support and treating them well.
"It’s a big money business," Brundy said.
Brundy says that judges will look to make sure the bulls are treated well during competitions and fine cowboys for mistreatment.
To ride a bull, a cowboy will have one hand on a bull rope that loops around the bull and has a handle that the cowboys hold with one gloved hand with the other in the air. The free hand must not touch the animal or the cowboy’s body. The rope tightens around the bull’s chest according to the cowboy’s hold, if he drops his grip, the rope drops. Cowboys wear spurs with dulled five-point stars to allow the cowboy to get a good grip on the bull without hurting him. Bonus points are awarded to cowboys who remove their spurs from the bull during the ride and then regrip.
"It shows the judges that he’s in control," Brundy said.
He says that in a rodeo, he will generally compare the performances of all of the cowboys to determine the individual scores. Brundy began judging five years ago after completing a course offered by the Utah High School Rodeo Association and observing professional judges. Since then he has slowly been asked to judge larger and larger rodeos.
When the cowboy is bucked off, the rodeo clowns are out there as lifesaver to get the attention of the bull and away from the rider.
Most bulls can weigh anywhere between 1,400-2,000 pounds, so cowboys must be smart when they are competing, Brundy says.
"It’s a lot of power dropping down when the cowboy’s on," Brundy said. "You can’t outmuscle them."
Bull riders in contrast are usually smaller. They generally weigh between 140-180 pounds. A higher weight means that much more weight that they have to balance and resist against, so a lower body weight is better. To protect the cowboys, they wear a special vest that shields them from large objects moving at a slow velocity, leather chaps on their legs and a helmet, if they choose, that has a titanium cage on the front.
Like many rodeo stars, bull riders often start rodeoing at a young age. They begin by riding sheep, then calves, followed by steers, yearling-bulls and finally the full-grown bulls. Rodeo is often a family sport, passed down generation after generation, but Brundy says that anyone can try the sport. The rodeo community is small and cowboys are often willing to help people learn. Brundy began bull riding when he was 21 and moved up the ranks until he became a Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) member about eight years later. A pro career as a bull rider is often short due to the physical wear and tear on the cowboys. Brundy retired after four years, following muscle tears, a broken jaw and collar bone and a dislocated thumb.
The Oakley Rodeo
The Oakley Rodeo tries to bring in some of the nation’s best cowboys and is one of many PRCA rodeos that are slated for the Fourth of July week. Known as "Cowboy Christmas," the July 4 week is the biggest money-making week for cowboys with numerous opportunities to compete in different rodeos and win prize money, Brundy says that most cowboys make their money for the year in that week. With non-stop travel, lodging and entry fees, they generally break even, but the more prize money they make, the better their chances to make it to the National Rodeo Finals. The top 15 money makers are invited and the top winner takes home thousands of dollars.
Brundy expects that the Oakley Rodeo, one of the most popular ones in the state, will once again sell out every night. He says that the high amount of prize money and a well-organized committee make the rodeo such a success year after year. He also thinks it’s the patriotism that keeps people coming.
"It’s a big celebration. Cowboys are patriotic," Brundy said.
At the same time, though, he point out that rodeo is very cross cultural. Anywhere that cattle ranching takes place there is rodeoing Native American reservations, Brazil and small ranching towns all over the world.
The 72nd annual Oakley Rodeo and July 4 Celebration will host events all during the July 4 week, Official rodeos will be held July 4-7. For more information, visit http://www.oakleycity.com
Oakley Rodeo Round-up
Wednesday, July 4 8 p.m. SOLD OUT
Thursday, July 5 8 p.m.
Friday, July 6 8 p.m. SOLD OUT
Saturday, July 7 8 p.m.
A fireworks display follows the rodeo each night
For more information, visit http://www.oakleycity.com
Rodeo tickets are $12 each
To order tickets visit the Oakley City website or call (435) 783-5753
July 4 Celebration
Parade – Center Street and State Road 32 Patriotic Program immediately follows parade at the City Park building, located at 911 West Center Street
Breakfast – Oakley City Hall Adults $5, Children $3
Horse Pulls (indoor arena) Adults $5, Children $3
Co-ed Softball Tournament