In honor of the bull riding stories coming out soon (see what I did there?) I'm posting a glossary of bull riding terms for anyone interested.
Yeah, I know, right?
Arena: Bull riding takes place in a sports arena surrounded by steel fences six feet high. At one end the ring announcers narrate from a safe place, giving stats, scores and their opinions. At the other end a two-story steel structure houses the TV announcers up top, with the chutes down below. By the gate a TV reporter is stationed to interview riders coming and going.
Away from his hand: If a rider is right-handed and the bull spins to the opposite direction, the bull is going away from his hand and vice versa.
Back pens: There is a maze of fencing behind the scenes where the bulls wait before and after their trip.
Bonus points: Each round has a winner and each event has a championship round. Winners of rounds and the event receive bonus points and extra money.
Bucked off: When a rider is thrown before eight seconds and doesn’t earn a score.
Bull rope: The rope is wrapped around the bull and the rider’s gloved hand. It is not tied with a knot. A bell is attached to the rope and the weight of the bell pulls the rope off the bull after the dismount.
Bullfighter: A team of athletes with training in handling livestock who distract the bull to keep the rider safe. The bullfighter’s goal is to look like an easier target and they will take the hit for the rider or each other.
Challenge: A rider can push the red challenge button if he feels the bull fouled or the timing clock malfunctioned. If the challenge is denied, the rider pays $500 for the challenge.
Change direction: When a bull changes direction laterally front to back or side to side.
Chutes: A gated box where the rider wraps his rope around the bull and gets ready to ride. There are usually 6 chutes, where riders get ready in turn. When the rider nods his head, the gateman will open the gate.
Cover: When a rider successfully stays aboard the bull for 8 seconds, he has covered the bull.
Delivery: The stock owner decides whether the gate will open left or right, as bulls usually perform better in a particular direction.
Dismount: If a rider makes the whistle, he reaches down with his free hand, jerks the tail of the rope to free his riding hand and tries to get off as safely as possible.
Disqualify: A rider can be DQ’d if he touches the bull with his free arm, loses his grip on the rope or leaves the chute with his spur caught in the knot of his bull rope.
Down in the well: If the bull pulls the rider down into the vortex of his motion. Bullfighters call this going into the blender.
Draw: Bulls and riders are randomly paired in the draw. The championship round of each event, riders choose their own bulls from a list provided to them.
Eight seconds: A qualified ride is eight seconds. The clock starts when a bull’s shoulder or flank breaks the plane of the gate and stops if the whistle blows, the rider’s hand comes out of the rope, the rider’s free arm touches the bull, or the rider falls off. The rider can be upside down but as long as he’s got hold of the rope, he makes a score.
Finals: Points are counted throughout the year and the top forty riders (and alternates) go to the finals to joust for the World Championship.
Flank strap: A rope that is loosely tied around the bull’s hips. It has to be loose so the bull thinks it can kick it off. This rope has no contact with the bull’s genitals. Most contractors baby their bulls and would never hurt them. Besides, you damage the genitals, you aren’t getting stud fees from your money bulls when they retire.
Free arm: The rider uses the arm not wrapped in the rope to move his body with the bull. If the bull turns suddenly a rider can throw his arm in the same direction to avoid falling off. If any part of the arm below the shoulder makes contact with the bull, the rider is DQ’d.
Gate man: The gate man is positioned inside the arena and when the rider gives the nod, he must open the gate as quickly as possible. He must also get out of the bull’s sightline because some bulls will get distracted and chase him.
Glove: Thick leather glove that protects the rider’s riding hand from rope burn.
Go-around: Each event has several tries for the riders, called long rounds. If they score high enough, up to fifteen riders can advance to the short-go, or championship round for the event.
Hooked: When a bull hooks a human target with his horns.
Hung up: When a rider is unable to free his hand from the bull rope, he is hung up. The bull will drag the rider until he or the bullfighters can free him from the rope.
Into his hand: If the bull turns toward the rider’s riding hand, he is spinning into his hand.
Judging: Four judges evaluate each bull and rider. Bulls always receive a score, even if they buck the rider off. They are judged on the difficulty of their performance and how smart they are at getting a rider off. Riders are judged on technique and control, but only get a score if he makes eight seconds. Spurring earns extra points as showing control.
Kindness to animals: Only blunt spurs are allowed. The rider spurs to demonstrate control, but the spurs do not scratch the bull’s hide.
Livestock director: The Livestock Director works with stock contractors to bring the best bucking bulls to the events.
Making the whistle: Or horn. An alarm sounds when eight seconds has passed or if the rider makes a violation.
Mean bull: A bull that will actively go after a rider or bullfighter.
Muley bull: A bull without horns.
Rank bull: A challenging bull that is difficult to ride.
Reride: If the judges feel the rider didn’t get a fair chance they may award a reride. This can be for a foul, if the bull gets hung up in the gate or if the bull is having a bad day.
Riding hand: The hand the rider uses to hang onto the rope.
Ring usher or safety man: A cowboy on horseback who assists the bullfighters when they have trouble getting a bull to leave the ring.
Safety equipment: Riders must wear protective vests. Helmets are not mandatory although they damn well should be! Bullfighters wear different kinds of vests and lots of padding, but no helmets because they need their peripheral vision. Of course they wear cowboy hats.
Sharkcage: A round steel structure in the middle of the ring. A TV crew is stationed inside to shoot the action. The clown, or entertainer, can go there for safety. Cowboys will often run there if a bull is after them. At the start of the event, there are two ramps and as their names are called, cowboys go up, tip their hat and go down the other side to line up in the ring.
Scoring: Both rider and bull are scored on their performance, with 50 point available for each making a possible score of 100. Chris Shivers is the highest scoring cowboy in history with a score of 96.5.
Slap: If a rider slaps a bull with his free arm during the ride, he’s DQ’d.
Stock contractor: Individual contractors who buy, breed and train bulls for the events.
Trip: The type of ride a particular bull offers.