« Rodeo » – A very broad term with many variants, originally from the Spanish « rodear, » meaning « encircle” or « turn around, » it describes a practice aiming to catch cattle to mark, care for, or sell it. This highly regulated sport has become a unique source of entertainment for spectators, with a large following in the United States and Mexico.
Fascinating for some, revolting for others, rodeo is a divisive sport which is undeniably exciting. In the heart of the United States, we’ll be uncovering insights from the bull-riding tradition of the Cowtown Coliseum of Fort Worth, a city of Northern Texas known for its StockYards neighborhood, rich in rodeo and cowboy history.
8 seconds, no more, no less, to score points. An interesting concept which lends an intense sense of anticipation and excitement. Although perceived as the most dangerous sport in the world, professional bull riding is particularly popular amongst certain young people, who see it as a real way of life. More than a sport, bull riders prepare endlessly to perfect their skills in order to survive 8 seconds of pure adrenaline. Extensive media coverage and multi-million dollar prizes awarded to the victors at Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Tours have also contributed to the rise of this sport, which was once an obscure, dark and extreme pastime when the PBR incorporation was founded in 1992.
All clad in Wrangler jeans with cowboy boots, young bull-riders open their dust-bags to proudly retrieve rodeo helmets, spikes, and leather chaps with colorful fringes, gloves, cowboy hats, and enormous braided cords to keep the rider on the bull during the rodeo. A tense atmosphere hangs in the darkness of their muddy locker rooms, as the young riders begin to pray silently before they enter the arena.
One by one, they leave the locker room and go up the access ramp to the box where the bulls await, each assigned a different one in advance of the competition. The public screams and cheers the riders performing in the arena, increasing the sense of anticipation and excitement. Warm-ups begin, some continue their prayers while others self-harm to desensitize their private parts … their 8 seconds is fast approaching. The braided rope is their only link to the animal, each rider prepares it carefully according to their preferences of grip and hold. They climb on the bull within the safety of the bow and fasten their rope to the animal before the door opens. Some bulls are quite calm, others already show first signs of excitement and raise the tension to a tipping point: if the animal is irritated, it will be hard to ride. Their horns press against the metallic structures of the box giving the rider a glimpse of what to expect as the countdown is about to begin. Settled and ready, the doors open and the seconds start counting down.
Once on the bull, the rider will use his strong arm to hold the rope and hold himself in place onto the animal. The other arm shall not, at any time, touch either the rope or bull to prevent immediate disqualification. In a constant struggle to find balance and reach the ultimate goal of 8 seconds, the successful rider will eventually descend from the bull, to await his performance score by the judges. With a total of a 100 points, divided between the bull and the rider with a maximum of 50 points each, a rider who falls before the 8 second mark is awarded none.
8 seconds, a short moment for some, an eternity for others, especially when it comes to taming nearly a ton of excited and powerful muscles. Meticulous preparation, special warm-ups, unique equipment and many prayers for the majority of practitioners are required to anticipate these 8 seconds. Pressured to perform and practicing at high risk, this behind the scenes report of bull-riding captures the life of the young people who dedicate their time and energy to this tradition.