Learn how to ride a bull

A qualifying bull ride only lasts eight seconds, but the preparation is a full-time job.

American Cowboy Picture

Every Monday throughout the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) season, Travis Briscoe rests. During the remainder of his week, the seven-time winner spends his time training (with a few ice baths mixed in) for the next weekend of work.

Just 22 years old and already a veteran on the PBR Tour, Briscoe has learned to not risk injury during the week by bucking out practice bulls like he did as a teen. “Especially as the season goes on,” Briscoe adds, “I can’t be sore going into the weekend.”

For Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) bull riders, however, the week is often filled with as many rodeos as they can reach by truck or plane. “Every week, I’m riding in three or four rodeos,” says PRCA bull rider Chad Denton, 32. And that grind means cowboys like Denton are always sore come championship season in late fall.

By the time Denton arrives in Las Vegas for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, he has to be in peak physical form. To do so, he relaxes his fall schedule, going weeks at a time without competing. And, he gets back into a workout routine.

“I’ve done the Insanity videos six times a week,” Denton says. “It got me in the best physical shape I’ve ever been in my life. Especially my core, which is key for bull riding.”

Briscoe doesn’t compete in PRCA events, so by December, he’s already back home preparing for the 2011 PBR Tour. But that doesn’t mean he spends his off-season sitting on the couch. Six days a week he completes a workout focused on building core strength. (Briscoe prefers the P90X workout DVDs.)

In between, both Briscoe and Denton spend the rest of their training time perfecting technique. Both cowboys practice on a Drop Barrel, a springed concoction attached to a 55-gallon drum sold by renowned bull-riding coach Gary Leffew. Briscoe considers the barrel, which simulates a bull’s buck, to be the most important training device he owns. As he puts it, “You’ve got to ride the buck, you can’t ride the spin. The bull’s always bucking, whether or not he’s spinning.”

Denton enters multiple rodeos each week and works in recovery time when he can, while Briscoe sticks to one rodeo per week with planned workouts and recovery time. Both, however, look to peak for their respective finals.
Surviving an eight-second ride, as it turns out, is practically the easy part; it’s thriving throughout an entire season that really shows who is tough enough—and who has trained right.


Santa Maria, Calif.
TUITION: $200 per day
DURATION: Five or seven days
Designed for competitive riders looking to improve their skills; includes accommodations and meals. 805-929-4286, leffewbullridingworld.com

Locations in 12 states
DURATION: Three days
Regardless of experience, each student will get on bucking stock starting the first afternoon. 417-263-7777,

North Canaan, Conn.
TUITION: $150 per day
DURATION: Two days
Pros come to Let R Buck for injury rehab practice, but from April through November, aspiring cowboys can take part in the beginners program. 860-318-5583, cnobull2tuff.com

Henryetta, Okla.
DURATION: Three days
Don, a World Champion PRCA bull rider, provides personal instruction. 918-521-1068,

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