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The Bull Riders – Part IV

The Pre Game

The Complete Story of ‘The Bull Riders’

I interviewed quite a few cowboys over the 3 days I was at the PBR, but the guys I talked to the most were Austin Meier (left) and Ryan Dirteater (right). They were actually the first guys I talked to. I showed up early, hoping to get a lay of the land, and they were hanging out in the stands tweeting with their fans. Those guys gave me a good 1/2 hour to chat about training and the sport of bull riding. Good guys to follow, you can find them here on Twitter.

PBR Denver Austin Meiers and Ryan Dirteater

Today we are going to take a look at those hours before the riders get on their bulls to compete. However, before we do that, I want to take a second to let you know what Austin shared with me about how he trains off the bull. Of the guys I spoke to, Austin seemed to have one of the most focused and regimented programs. Here is what he does to improve his bull riding.

  • Austin counts calories. You would think that bull riders are bulked up guys who try to muscle the bull. That couldn’t be further from the truth. They are lean, flexible, super efficient athletes. Why? Simple physics. The more weight, whether it is fat or muscle, that is further from your center of gravity, the harder it is to hold on as the bull spins and bucks.
  • He runs a lot. Part of his cardio conditioning as well as calorie burning comes from running. It is a daily component of his training.
  • He does yoga, lot’s of yoga. He does yoga, not only for the flexibility benefits, but to strengthen his core. The key to a bull rider’s success lies in their ability to stay centered over the bull. To do this, you need core strength….lots of it!
  • He practices his technique at home. No, not on the bull, although he might have a few back at the ranch? He actually has a mechanical bull that allows him to hone specific elements of his technique. You are probably thinking he goes to the local bar and wows the crowd with his mechanical bull riding skills. Although I’m sure he could put the local hero to shame, his training bull is at home and is built on a system of pulleys that he has someone else operate.
  • Austin summed it up when he likened his training to that of a gymnast.

Count Down To Go Time

After the riders arrive and the area, send out a few tweets, and get a meal in them, they unload their gear and start their preparations. Here is a quick look at what happens before the chutes open.

1) They rosin up their gloves and rope. Heat quickly turns a dry piece of tree sap into a natural adhesive.
PBR Denver 2012

2) They texture and fray their ropes, ensuring they won’t slip.
PBR Denver 2012

3) They seek the medical services provided to them by the PBR. A riders condition is shared by medical staff at different venues. They are always looking out for the best interest of the rider. Although, as one rider left the medical offices, he jokingly said….”bull riding is not in my best interest”.
PBR Denver 2012

Francisco Morales prefers to perform his own medical duties. He learned how to splint his arm from the PTs on staff, now he does it himself as part of his pre-game ritual. There isn’t much time to heal in a 10 month season. Remember, these guys don’t get paid unless they compete and win. He’s riding with a hyperextended elbow.
PBR Denver 2012

4) They chat with friends and take a look at the arena. Anything to help them relax I guess.
PBR Denver 2012

5) They dress their bull.
PBR Denver 2012

PBR Denver 2012

6) They sit alone in line with their bull as they both make their way to the arena floor.
PBR Denver 2012

7) Once they are up, and their bull is in the chute, whoever is standing on deck helps the rider get settled. This involves holding him in place if the bull starts to buck as he gets his grip dialed in. I asked a few riders what is going through their mind at this point. Some like to play it loose and joke with their buddies. Some focus on the game at hand, while others don’t think about a thing….their mind goes blank and they wait for the bull to move.
PBR Denver 2012

8) The chute guy gets really stressed out.

PBR Denver

9) This guy jumps into the bleachers when he pulls the chute door open.
PBR Denver

10) Once that chute door opens, and the cowboy is alone with the bull, years of training and practice turns itself into a finely honed survival instinct.
PBR Denver

Tomorrow, we conclude our story of ‘The Bull Riders’ with a few images of these guys making 8!

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  1. The three pics in a row from the close up of dressing their bull to Step 7 are just great Justin. You really feel the intensity of the moment building up to the bull being let loose. Another great post!

  2. Cool shots Justin. You really convey the challenges of the sport.

  3. You got some great shots there, Justin. The one with the head-on view of the bull’s horns in the chute there looks like you were actually in the chute. I do hope not. Great job on the series.

  4. Fantastic! An up close and personal view of this sport! Great coverage!

  5. Utterly fabulous!

  6. Wow…fantastic series of images & post Justin.

  7. Thanks everyone, I’m glad you enjoyed the story. I really hoped you all learned a bit about the sport of professional bull riding. They are a great group of guys, and could use our support.

Leave a comment, I would love to hear from you