The rider only scores points if he successfully rides the bull for 8 seconds. The bull is always given a score. In the PRCA, a ride is scored from 0— points. Both the rider and the bull are awarded points.
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In the regular season, there are four judges, two judges scoring the bull's effort from 0—25 points, and two judges scoring the rider's performance from points. There is the potential for the rider and the bull to earn up to 50 points each. The two scores are added together for a total ride score of up to points. Many experienced professionals are able to earn scores of 75 or more.
Scores above 80 are considered excellent, and a score in the 90s exceptional. In the PBR, a ride is scored from points in total. Up to 50 points is scored for the rider and 50 points for the bull. Four judges award a score of up to 25 points each for the rider's performance, and four judges award up to 25 points each for the bull's effort. Then all the scores are combined and then the total is divided in half for the official score. Judges award points based on several key aspects of the ride. Judges look for constant control and rhythm in the rider in matching their movements with the bull.
Points are usually deducted if a rider is constantly off balance. For points actually to be awarded, the rider must stay mounted for a minimum of 8 seconds, and they are scored only for actions during those 8 seconds. The ability to control the bull well allows riders to gain extra style points. These are often gained by spurring the animal.
A rider is disqualified for touching the bull, the rope, or themself with their free arm. Bulls have more raw power and a different style of movement from bucking horses.
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One move particular to bulls is a belly roll "sunfishing" , in which the bull is completely off the ground and kicks either his hind feet or all four feet to the side in a twisting, rolling motion. Bulls also are more likely than horses to spin in tight, quick circles, and are less likely to run or to jump extremely high "break in two". For the bull, judges look at the animal's overall agility, power and speed; his back legs kick, and his front end drops.
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In general, if a bull gives a rider a very hard time, more points will be awarded. If a rider fails to stay mounted for at least 8 seconds, the bull is still awarded a score. Both organizations award one bull an award for the best bull of the year, decided by bull scores in both buckoffs and successful qualified rides. The award brings prestige to the ranch at which the bull was raised. If a rider scores sufficiently low due to poor bull performance, the judges may offer the rider the option of a re-ride. By taking the option, the rider gives up the score received, waits until all other riders have ridden, and rides again.
This can be risky because the rider loses their score and risks being bucked off and receiving no score.
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A re-ride may also be given if a bull stumbles or runs into the fence or gate. In some PBR events that use an elimination style bracket, if both riders in a bracket fail to reach eight seconds, the rider who lasts longer advances to the next round.
Otherwise, the rider with a higher score advances. Bull riders use many pieces of equipment both functionally and to ensure maximum safety , both to themselves and to the animals involved. The primary piece of equipment used is the bull rope. It is a braided rope made of polypropylene, grass, or some combination. A handle is braided into the center of the rope and is usually stiffened with leather. One side of the rope is tied in an adjustable knot that can be changed for the size of bull.
The other side of the rope the tail is a flat braid and is usually coated with rosin to keep it from sliding through the rider's hand. A metallic bell is strapped to the knot and hangs directly under the bull throughout the ride. In addition to the sound the bell produces, it also gives the rope some weight, allowing it to fall off the bull once a rider has dismounted.
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Chaps are probably the most noticeable piece of bull rider clothing, as their distinctive coloring and patterns add flair to the sport. Usually made of leather, chaps also provide protection for the rider's legs and thighs. Bull riders wear protective vests, usually made of high impact foam that allow the shock to disperse over a wide area, thereby reducing pain and injury.
They were introduced in , and made mandatory for all riders by To prevent a rope burn , riders must wear a protective glove , usually made of leather. It must be fastened to the rider's hand since the force the animal is able to exert could easily tear it away.
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The rider often applies rosin to the glove, which allows for additional grip. Cowboy boots are also worn. The dull and loosely locked spurs help keep the rider balanced and is crucial piece of equipment to the sport as a whole. The bulls are unharmed by the rowels , as their hide is roughly seven times thicker than a human being's skin.
Truly skilled riders will often spur the bull in the hope of achieving extra style points from the judges. Many riders wear mouthguards , which are optional at the professional level. Cowboy hats remain the primary headwear used.
While the professional organizations permit protective helmets and masks, some riders continue to believe that this equipment can detrimentally affect balance, and many professionals still avoid wearing them. However, the trend is changing, as more champion riders begin to wear helmets for added safety.
In , at the 1st International Rodeo Research and Clinical Care Conference in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, the licensed rodeo and bull riding medical personnel and clinicians recommended to the rodeo and bull riding associations mentioned in the agreement the mandatory use of helmets to all youth bull riders and the recommendation of helmets to all adult bull riders.
For competitors under the age of 18, protective headgear incorporating a helmet and ice hockey style face mask are worn.
While optional at the upper levels of the sport, it has become mandatory at younger levels, and riders who use helmets and face masks as youths tend to continue to wearing them as they reach adulthood and turn professional. It is tied around the bull's flank. This rope is to encourage the bull to use his hind legs more in a bucking motion, as this is a true test of a rider's skill in maintaining the ride.
If it is applied improperly a rider may request to ride again, as the bull will not buck well if the flank strap is too tight. The flank strap is applied by the stock contractor or his designate. The arenas used in professional bull riding vary. Some are rodeo arenas that are used only for bull riding and other rodeo events. Others are event centers that play host to many different sports. Common to all arenas is a large, open area that gives the bulls, bull riders, and bull fighters plenty of room to maneuver.
The area is fenced, usually 6 to 7 feet high, to protect the audience from escaped bulls. There are generally exits on each corner of the arena for riders to get out of the way quickly. Riders can also hop onto the fence to avoid danger. One end of the arena contains the bucking chutes from which the bulls are released. There is also an exit chute where the bulls can exit the arena. In the United States and Canada, most professional bull riders start out riding in high school rodeo or other junior associations.
Bull riders compete in these organizations as they are climbing the ladder to the professional ranks and to supplement their income. In Mexico, there are a number of American-style bull riding organizations. The latter of which is Mexico's top organization that includes all of American Rodeo's standard events, including bull riding. There are also a number of regional semi-pro associations.
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