Sunday, February 26, 2017

Bull Riding ... The Scariest Event

This has to be my favorite image of the Fiesta De Los Vaqueros, or Tucson Rodeo for short.  There are lots of ways to ride a bucking horse.  This is how it's done ... balancing yourself over their withers (shoulders) kind of like a teeter totter.  They go down on the front feet, you lean BACK.  They go up with the front feet, you lean FORWARD.
This is how NOT to do it.  I don't remember when this style came about, but you can bet he will never be a World Champ.   He is actually still hanging on with his right hand (this is how he rode the entire time) ... but look at his legs?  They'll be on the wrong side shortly and he'll hit the ground.  I doubt he got any points for style either.   You've GOT to have the balance!!
See the difference?  Horse goes up, you lean forward.  All of these guys have their own equipment too.  Although there are rules regarding the saddles, they pretty much ride the same kind, none of which have horns like you see on regular saddles ... for obvious reasons.
Here's the same guy from the first image.  He may have been the Canadian Champion.  There were several champs in attendance and you could certainly tell when they rode their horse to the buzzer.
I have to give it up to the Tucson Rodeo committee ... they kept you going the entire time with lots of audience participation.  The rodeo clown wore a microphone and spouted off jokes right and left.  Here he was in his Evil Knievel outfit.  According to him, at 300 pounds, it was just a tad snug.  He was supposed to ride this little bike up the ramp and over the horse trailer.
I didn't think he would get far at all ... that's a pretty steep ramp, don't you think?  To the roar of the crowd, he went up the ramp and immediately dropped out of site.  There was a big hole in the top of the trailer.  He was pretty agile for a guy his size!!
This is one of the Pro Calf Ropers.  I noticed something different about these guys too.  In the "OLD" days, your horse was trained to back up after it stopped and "stay" so to speak.  Although I'm sure it's not cheating in today's rodeo, the cowboys of yesterday wouldn't be caught dead with a long rope attached to their bridle reins, going around the horn and through a belt loop ..... so when the rider jumps off, the rope pulls on the reins keeping the horse moving backwards.  Make sense??  Seems to me it gives them an edge.  I think only two calf ropers did NOT use that rope.
Barrel racing can be a little scary too.  When turning fast corners, the horses hooves dig through the soft top dirt to the hard pack below where they slip easily.  You can tell how far over the horse leans when you see the riders foot just inches from the ground.
And then there were the bulls.  These guys are always pretty cranky ... you would be too if you had a big belt tied around your middle and cinched down.  They are bred for their bucking ability and attitude when in the arena.  When back in the corrals with their buddies and no ropes tied on them, they are much more docile and easy to handle on horseback.
If you've been around cattle for awhile, you get to know them pretty well ... how NOT to push their buttons.  Just by taking a small step one way or another, you can direct them anywhere you want.  When I was an eight year old pushing cows into an alleyway from a large corral, my Dad told me to stand my ground and not let them get by.  

Nooooooo I cried, they'll run over me.  NO THEY WON'T ... STAND THERE AND WAVE YOUR ARMS he yelled.  He opened the gate, the cattle scattered back toward me and I bravely waved my arms, yelling at the top of my lungs.  That's when the old cow hit me right in the chest and knocked me flat.  I'm a quick learner ... I never got in the corral with the cows again unless I was on a horse.
With so many injuries happening to the bull riders, the new rules require kevlar vests and helmets, making it a little safer.  When you get bucked off, you jump up quick and run like heck for the fence!!  Hopefully the Rodeo Clowns will intercept the bulls and get them off your assets until you can climb said fence!!  Talk about brave!!  Usually the clowns are old bull riders who not only know cattle, but have been around these bulls long enough to know the idiosyncrasies of each one.  
Why the flags in their pants?  Bulls chase movement.  Those flags get the attention of the bull so it will chase them instead of the cowboy.  They wear big baggy pants to make themselves look like clowns, but really, it's for ease of movement and fast running!!  After all, they have a 2,000 pound bull on their butt!!
Eight seconds is all you have to do to get a score.  Even if you are hanging off the side when the bell rings, you get scored.  Lucky top scores get to do it all over again on the weekend for the money.  If you don't score high, you paid your fees and risked your life for naught.  Better luck next time.
Our motorcycle rodeo clown isn't really a bull riding clown, but he did get in the barrel for a little fun.  These guys know exactly which bulls they can play with and give the audience a good show.  They kept the gate closed on this guy so he would bounce the barrel around a little.  The REAL clowns were telling motorcycle clown exactly what to do, and when they said JUMP, he did ... right into the barrel. 
This clown had to make a run for the fence.  Imagine if you slipped climbing up?  That's why they wear tennis shoes instead of boots!!
It was great fun!!  I just LOVE shooting action pictures and it doesn't get much better than this.  Even though we were quite far away, my favorite Nikon lens still captured the images I wanted.  

If there's a rodeo in whatever town you are in ... check it out!  You'll have a great time!!

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