Unlike the other rough stock contestants, bull riders are not required to spur — it’s optional, according to the 2009 PRCA Media Guide.
No wonder. It’s usually impressive enough just to remain seated for 8 seconds on an animal that weighs more than a ton and is as quick as he is big.
In the chute, the bull rider settles on the bull’s back, wraps his braided rope around the bull’s girth, then loops the rope around his hand and back into his palm so he can grip it tightly.
When he nods, the gate is opened and the bull lunges out of the chute.
Upper body control and strong legs are essential to riding bulls. The rider tries to remain forward, or “over his hand,” at all times. Leaning back could cause him to be whipped forward when the bull bucks.
He will be scored highly for staying in the middle of the bull, in full control of the ride.
Judges watch for good body position and other factors, including use of the free arm and spurring action. Although not required, spurring will add points to a rider’s score.
As in all the riding events, half the score in bull riding is determined by the contestant’s performance and the other half is based on the animal’s effort — its spinning, jumping and kicking, lunging, rearing and dropping and side-to-side motion.
A bull rider will be disqualified for touching the animal, himself or his equipment with his free hand.
Two judges determine the points to be awarded, with up to 100 total points possible.
Bull riding is probably the most popular event in a rodeo. It is also probably the most dangerous. Both the rider and bull are at risk in the event.
Bulls can be injured if they come out of the chute too wildly.
Riders are always at risk: staying on the bull and coming off it.