The Art of the Ride …

PBR 2015

It’s that time of year again, the PBR is back in town. Today I thought I’d explain the art of the ride, and how it’s judged. Believe me, there is more here than meets the eye.


PBR 2015


The cowboy must ride the bull for a full 8 seconds to earn a score. The clock starts to tick when the bulls shoulder, or hip, breaks the plane of the gate, and it stops ticking when the riders hand comes out of his rope. These 8 seconds can be an eternity when straddled on top of a bull weighing approximately 1,600-1,700 pounds. The PBR bucking bulls very rarely weigh less than 1,200 pounds and can weigh as much as 2,000-2,200 pounds.


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Each ride is worth up to 100 points, 50 for the bull, and 50 for the cowboy if he successfully stays onboard for the full 8 seconds. There are 4 judges that can award up to 25 points each to the rider and the bull. Those points are added together and divided in half to reach a score between 0 and 50 for both. Those final numbers are then combined to reach a final ride score between 0 and 100. Any score over 90 points is considered a ‘home run’ of bull riding. The highest score ever earned in the PBR is 96.5, a feat accomplished by only 3. It amazes me, I never imagined that the bull was also rated. A beast is a beast, and a brute is a brute, but in the PBR that just isn’t so.


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The cowboy is judged on how well he matches the bull’s moves and maintains control of the ride. He must ride with one hand and is disqualified if he touches himself or the bull during the 8 seconds.PBR 2015-7

Extra points may also be awarded to the cowboy for style, such as spurring, which demonstrates a greater sense of control. The definition of spurring: to urge forward by digging one’s spurs into its sides.


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The bull is judged on his athleticism and difficulty to ride, his spin to the right or left, direction changes, kick in the back end, drop in the front, and body rolls. A body roll occurs when the bull is in the air and kicks either his hind feet or all four to the side. In essence, the more the bull kicks and hollers, the better his score, and apparently his worth.


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In the photo below, do you see the man with the clown face? with his hands dangeling over the railing? That’s Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs, he’s Built Ford Tough! Mike opened the show by singing the Star Spangled Banner, a man of many talents.PBR 2015-13








If the bull’s performance is sub-par, or if a foul occurs such as the rider being rubbed against the chute, the bull stumbles, or the flank strap detaches, the judges can offer the rider a chance to take a re-ride. I believe a bull is only allowed one ride in 24 hours. If I have anything twisted concerning the rules and regulations I am counting on Randy or Suzanne to set me straight. They are friends of mine that grew up in bull territory and know the rodeo inside and out.


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PBR 2015-4.

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As far as I know todays athletes were OK, and the helicopters stayed grounded. The protective vests that the cowboys wear absorb the shocks and dissipate the blows to the body, helping to prevent injuries to their internal organs. The vest is made of leather and a thick foam and is built to tear away in the event of a hooking. The hat however is up to the rider. Some riders wear the cowboy hat out of tradition, but many choose to wear a helmet, although today I didn’t see one. These boys are built tough, Ford Tough!


PBR 2015-6


And lastly, the flank strap. The flank strap is positioned around a bull’s flank, in front of his hips. The strap is designed to give the bull a sense of timing when he bucks. A bull without a flank strap would lose his rhythm, and his bucking would become very unorthodox. The strap does not irritate the animals genitals in any way. With breeders paying as much as $5,000.00 a straw (vial) for genetic material, it would make no sense to risk the reproductive health of the animal.

I admit that I plagiarized most of this post from the the PBR ‘playbill’. I thought it better to be correct with the facts and admit my theft, than to be spreading around the ‘bull’.


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For comment on my photos, well they look familiar. The difference: I shot these at a speed of 5000 with minimal ‘noise’. The faster speed also allows more flexibility with my settings. Last year my top speed was 3200 limiting my setting choices and a greater amount of grain was evident. So today it was about the camera, a Nikon D610.


PBR 2015-15


I also love documenting behind the scenes, but because I wasn’t able to move about freely the photo’s resembled last years, same vantage points, same angles. In order to get different shots I’d have to get closer and wander into forbidden territory. Can’t fault a girl for trying! but when they caught up with me I was kindly asked to find my seat … so I did.


3 thoughts on “The Art of the Ride …

  1. Bravo for getting out of the gate and exploring! I feel the energy in your photographs, love looking for the clown, and the best photo of all, OUR flag. God Bless America.

  2. I love the pictures but in particular the one with the bull and the rider laying down on the bull in yellow and blue. Great pics.

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