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Bull Riding 101

How to rodeo in the (very) Deep South

Author Chris Wright Illustration Luci Gutiérrez

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Generally, rodeo calls to mind men named Rusty or Jed who say “y’all” and wear Stetsons without irony. This most American of neck-breaking pursuits, though, is also big in Australia, nowhere more so than in Coonamble, a plains town northwest of Sydney. Now in its 60th year, the famous Coonamble Rodeo is back this month (June 6–8), with bull-riders, as ever, topping the bill. Here, how to do it like a real cowbloke.

1 Know Thy Bull
Prior to the event, visit the holding pen and take stock of your ride. If he is rolling his eyes, snorting, scraping, bucking and getting in the face of his fellow bulls, you’re in for a rough one; if he is standing alone in the corner looking pensive, not so much.

2 Hold on Tight
An obvious but vital piece of advice. As the ride begins, grasp the bull rope with your dominant hand and wave the other over your head in as non-panicky a way as possible. Grip the animal’s flanks with your feet, knees, buttocks, thighs and, where appropriate, teeth.

3 Basic Moves
Be flexible and responsive: When the bull rears on its hind legs, lean forward; when it kicks its back legs, lean back; when it throws you off and tries to trample you into the dirt, crawl or run away while maintaining all-important bladder control.

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