8 seconds: A Bull Riding Guide

All around the country men and women compete in a sport that is rooted in American history.

Odds are you’ve heard about it from a friend or gone to watch for yourself. You can find it all year round in the biggest cities in America and in the smallest towns. The men who compete in it are a select few and have been put on a path towards it since childhood or young adulthood. The sport we will be talking about in this article is bull riding. 

It is a part of a series of events called rodeo. In recent years it has grown so much popularity, and can be attended as a stand alone event. The professionals of this sport compete in a series of bull riding events all around the country called the PBR circuit. The men who compete in the PBR have the opportunity to ride bulls in front of thousands of people and win millions of dollars. Now that you know a little bit about the sport, let me take you through the basics, how to get started, and my personal experiences.

The Basics of Bull Riding

The sport is simple, stay on top of the bull for eight seconds with only the use of one arm. All while not allowing your other arm to hit the animal. You get scored on a scale of one to a hundred, and the rider with the highest score wins. The sport may seem simple on paper, but it is one of the most difficult and dangerous sports you can compete in today. This is because bulls are big, strong, powerful, wild animals that can weigh up to two thousand pounds. 

It is not uncommon for bull riders to come away from an event with serious injuries. This can be from being stepped on by the bull or hooked by his horns. These thoughts alone stop most people from competing in the sport. 

This makes the men that do some of the bravest athletes in the world. The ability to face fear and overcome it, is what makes this sport so special. It is also why the best bull riders in the world can make millions of dollars over the course of their career.

How to Get Started

The thought of picking up a new sport can be daunting to anyone. The thought of picking up such a dangerous sport, like bull riding, can seem impossible. I felt the same way before I got on my first bull. I later found out there are lots of people out there riding bulls for the first time like me.

Most people think the best way to get on their first bull is to go sign up for a rodeo and compete. This is not the best way to go about starting your bull riding journey. Like any other sport you would compete in, you must put in practice before. The best place to practice for the first time is a bull riding school. These schools are run by retired or current professional bull riders. 

Their goal is to pass on their knowledge to young bull riders, and first timers. They have smaller bulls that are first time riders to get on. These schools should teach you everything from safety, how to ride bulls, and how to be a great bull rider. Depending on the school you go to, it will cost you anywhere from $200 to $500.

If you attend one of these schools and decide bull riding isn’t for you, then you will have saved lots of time and money. This is better than buying all the necessary equipment and then deciding you don’t want to do it. Unfortunately , this is what happens to a lot of people. 

People see the money these bull riders can make and the lifestyle they live. All they have to do is travel around the country every week going to big rodeos. They don’t see the struggles of getting to that point. I attended one of these schools and had a great experience and realized I wanted to do this more often. After you’ve attended school, you can put in more practice before going to rodeos by going to practice pens. 

These are places where bull riders can go and get on practice bulls and prepare for the rodeo. You might have to pay a small fee to ride, usually only twenty dollars. These are great places to work on your technique and make you a better bull rider. The hardest part of any journey is getting started. You will be nervous showing up to your first practice pen. It’s normal to be afraid of getting laughed at or made fun of because you’re a beginner and only getting started. I can only speak from my personal experience, but everyone I’ve met at these practice pens is kind, humble, and helpful.

If you’ve been to a few practice pens and are still enjoying the sport, it might be time to start thinking about entering your first novice/amateur rodeo. You might have to do some searching to find one depending on where you live and what time of year it is. The summer time is a popular time for rodeos in the midwest and southern states. 

If you live in the north they have indoor arenas and will hold their bull riding events in the fall and winter. Facebook is a great place to find rodeos in your area, most bull riding associations spread the word about their events here. You can either enter the day of the rodeo or you might have to call in and reserve your spot. 

There also might be an entry fee for you to ride, somewhere between $20 to $100. After you have entered a few rodeos and put in a lot of practice you might be able to make money competing in rodeos. Most amateur rodeos have anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars up for grabs every night.

My Experience 


The sport of bull riding is very different from any other sport we have in America today. There is nothing else like it. The risk of competing in this sport is very real, bull riders have died from this sport in the past and will in the future. Everytime I ride and that gate opens I know that it could be my last time. The simple realization that you could die while participating in a sport is tough to handle. I would argue that when we compete in any outdoor activity we run the same risk, even though the chance may not be as high. 

It is not uncommon for hikers, rock climbers, hunters, and many other outdoor enthusiasts to have accidents, all while doing something they love. That last part I added is something we all need to spend a little bit more time thinking of, doing something you love. Most people go through life and put off doing the things they love for many reasons. 

My reason for putting off doing what I love for so long? I was scared I could be injured or die while trying to live out my dream. That possibility is still very real and will be for as long as I ride. I took the risk, and decided nothing is going to stop me from doing what I love. My life has changed for the better, and I want the same for you. If you know what you love to do and have been putting it off, go find time to do it. If you don’t know what you love to do yet, go search for it.

Bull riding, like a lot of extreme sports, is not for everyone. It’s seen as a sport for cowboys who grew up on ranches and adrenaline junkies looking for the next thrill. Its mix of danger and specific knowledge can make it hard to learn. This article has covered things first time riders need to be aware of for their own safety. 

A quick google search for a good bull riding school near you, and a practice pen that has bulls for beginners is a great start. If you choose to pursue it further you might want to invest in your own bull riding gear. I did not get into much detail on this because it will be specific to you as the rider. As always, if you pursue the sport further you will have a lot more to learn about it. The sport of bull riding has been very good to me, and has uncovered a passion that I never realized I had. It has taught me courage, toughness, and humbleness, and often in painful ways. 

Nonetheless, I will continue to pursue it and see where it takes me. I hope if you choose to pursue bull riding as well, this article shows you the ropes and helps you get over your first time fears.

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