Barbara Ankrum and the fun research into rodeo bull riders!

Hello, my name is Barbara and I’m a rodeo fan-girl.

There, I said it. Yes, I love watching cowboys take their lives in their hands aboard those lunatic pro-bulls. (Screaming into my fists, aside.) But after agreeing to write a bull-riding hero for my next book, I realized how little I actually knew about the mechanics of the sport. I needed to do some research, which is always one of my favorite parts of writing. I’ve discovered many a good turning point through research.

Hours of YouTube marathons yielded these tidbits, for example:

* Bull riders most often use man-made barrel contraptions manipulated by a huge lever to practice on and not (for the most part) real bulls because…life and limb.

* There are coach/mentors who teach/hone bull riding technique, even to the pros. One of these ended up figuring into my story and even changed my hero’s living situation.

* The bull ‘athletes’ are respected every bit as much as the riders and are specially bred to buck. One is even crowned champion at the end of the season for big money.

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* The difference between a slinger –a bull that tries to hit the rider in the head with its horns and a honker: a really ‘rank’ and difficult animal to ride.

Most intriguing was the bullrope—that woven rope/strap that goes around a bull’s chest and which the rider wraps around his gloved hand—which he must release at the end of the ride or risk getting hung up and dragged around by the arm. (The screaming into fists part.) It took a while to figure out the wrap techniques and how riders freed themselves at the end of a ride.

Traditional American bullropes, position the cowboy’s hand directly over the bull’s spine. Each time a bull bucks, the rope slides a little to the left, tightening on the cowboy’s fingers. And if the stars align badly, the cowboy is unable to release this bucking strap from his pinched fingers and he gets dangerously hung up.

Barbara Ankrum Bull rider 1Brazillian bullropes are relatively new on the scene. They appeared with the influx of Brazillian cowboys who have taken many of the top spots on the rodeo charts in the past few years. The bullrope they use is slightly different from the American one.

Their grip handle starts off center, to the right of the bull’s spine, and releases to the right, the opposite direction of the American rope, which takes the pressure off the cowboy’s hand and allows him to easily free himself, preventing hang-ups. Some U.S. rodeos have banned them, claiming they’re an unfair advantage for the Brazillians and U.S. riders who have embraced them, but the jury’s still out on whether it’s simply a smarter design or an advantage. With the high stakes money in the PBR, it’s understandable that some sour grapes linger over these ropes. But I decided to use one in my story, because it felt like a smarter choice for Finn Scott, who had two little children waiting at home for him, along with a temporary wife with commitment issues.

Barbara Ankrum bull rider hung upI loved every minute of writing CHOOSE ME, COWBOY (Part of the Montana Born Rodeo series) And for those who read last year’s, A FAIR TO REMEMBER, this book follows the second of the Canaday sisters, Kate.

I have a $10 Amazon gift card for one lucky commenter here. Just tell me your favorite rodeo event!

Barbara Ankrum is the bestselling author of fourteen books, including her latest contemporary romance, CHOOSE ME, COWBOY, from Tule Publishing. Her bestselling western historical series, ‘Wild Western Hearts’ and ‘Wild Western Rogues” are available on all e-book platforms. She’s been twice nominated for RWA’s prestigious RITA Award.

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59 Comments

  1. Wow, that’s a hard one but bronc riding maybe. Since I have to only name one. I always catch rodeos during the local Lancaster Valley Fairs here and definitely enjoy it. Sometimes whooping for the animal vs person every once in a while. So long as no one is hurt, it’s all good.

  2. Interesting post!

  3. Bull riding is the best!

    1. Bull riding is so death-defying, Alisa. Its like riding a roller coaster to watch it. My favorite, too.

  4. I’ve grown up going to a Rodeo every year in my hometown. Bull riding is always my favorite.

    1. I love a good rodeo, Cathy. I don’t get there enough! Maybe now I will.

  5. Bull riding would definitely be my favorite event if I were going to a rodeo. I think it is the most exciting and features the toughest of the cowboys. I never thought about the techniques used in the bullropes. I can see how the brazillian ones would create a problem in the American rodeos. Thanks for the chance to win your contest. I really enjoyed reading Choose Me, Cowboy.

    1. Thanks, Janine! Yes, I don’t think the controversy is over yet on bull ropes. But I’d like to see one in action in person, now that I understand the difference.

  6. I don’t really like any of the rodeo events. I am always afraid that someone is going to get hurt!

  7. Bull riders have always fascinated me. Even more so, the Bull fighters (aka rodeo clowns). You know, the dudes who throw themselves in front of the bulls to protect the hung up or wounded riders. Wow. Talk about screaming into fists…

    It doesn’t hurt that those cowboys always look so handsome. It’s always cool to get more information about the rodeo world. Just when I thought I knew stuff, something else comes along and makes me realize I don’t really know much. *heh*

    Cool post!!!!

    1. Thanks, Deb. I think one of those guys would make an amazing hero, don’t you?

  8. The high school-age daughter of a family friend has been a champion barrel racer at multiple races across the state, so given that we have someone to root for, I’d have to say barrel racing!

    1. And I love that barrel racing is one rodeo sport women can really compete in. Those horses are so incredible! (The riders, too, of course!) Congrats on your friend, Rachel K!

  9. Hi Barbara,
    I think bull riding is my favorite rodeo sport of all! I am enjoying your story very much as you write awesome books! So glad to be a part of the rodeo series with you. Good luck and have a fun day here at Petticoats!

    1. Charlene, Thanks so much! I couldn’t be happier to be with you in this series, too. Thanks for having me here today. And I am reading your book as well and it’s soooo good. Can’t wait to finish it!

  10. Charlene, I enjoy watching bronc & bull riding & those crazy clowns. As long as no one gets hurt, we like to go.

  11. Even though bull riding is the most dangerous I think that is what makes it more interesting one to love and watch. I do enjoy them.

    1. It’s all pretty dangerous, when you come right down to it, Kim. Bull riding, to me, just seems like a death wish, but somehow, they learn how to do it and not die. I am awed by their courage.

      1. There is the fatality once in a while with this sport.

  12. The bull riding, it’s the most exciting. Your bull riding scenes in Choose Me Cowboy really took you there, I wanted to skip ahead a little to see if Finn was alright but I made myself hang on and read it was so intense I loved it. I mentioned that I scene in my review of the book.

    1. Oh, thank you so much, Bonnie. And thank you for the lovely review! I can’t tell you how much it means to us authors to hear that you enjoyed yourself for just a little while with our stories. Grateful!

  13. My favorite event is the bull riding. I would so love to be in Vegas next week for the pbr finals. I am hoping to make it for next year 🙂

    1. Me, too, Darlene, re: Vegas. And one of these days, I’ll make it there to see it in person!

  14. Barbara, I have not been to a rodeo since I was a kid. I had no idea about the ropes. I bet that it was really interesting research though. Absolutely loving the book!

    1. Kim, So glad you’re enjoying the book. And I learned a whole lot about bull-riding researching this book that never even made it in the story! Fascinating sport. Fascinating guys that participate.

  15. I haven’t watched too many rodeos myself. I think I like the barrel racing better. Just can’t bring myself to watch someone ride a thousand pound bull (or more) and not know if he’s going to get hurt. Too intense for me! I also like the calf roping. Never been to a live video, but if I ever did, those two events would be my pick!
    Interesting bull-riding facts, I never knew about any of these either! It must have been fun to do your research for them! And I think that Brazilian bullrope sounds like it would be safer. Thanks for sharing, I sure learned something new! I have to agree about those rodeo clowns, they risk themselves right along with the cowboy! Not a job for the faint of heart, I wouldn’t think!!

    1. That’s supposed to read “I’ve never been to a live rodeo”….NOT video….LOL!! I hate auto-correct sometimes, it comes up with dome weird words! 😀

      1. Trixi O. I hear you on the intense part (screaming into fists!) I’m a big fan of horses and love watching horses do their well-trained thing. It just proves to the world how intelligent they are and how symbiotic our relationship to them is. And Ha! on the ‘video.’ You’re not the only one auto-correct has nailed on that one! Oh, auto-correct!

    1. An amazing skill, Anon1001. Fun to watch.

  16. Bull riding I think, I haven’t been to a rodeo since I was a kid and it was a very small one then.

    1. When I think of the rodeo, Quilt Lady, it’s the smells and the sounds of the animals, of the stadium, and the breathlessness of the crowd watching. Even videos don’t do it justice. I don’t get to them often enough either. But writing this book really made me want to immerse myself in that world again, just for fun! But if you can’t go, watching bull riding on the PBR events on TV is the next best thing!

  17. the 8-second ride!

  18. I love watching all events at rodeos but my absolute favourite is bronc riding. I don’t know if I get more excited when the rider or the horse wins.

    I used to have a children’s riding camp and every Saturday we held a “camper’s rodeo” where the kids from 8-15 years old would race at a walk, trot, canter, pole bending and barrel racing. We tried for accuracy more than speed in these events. They all went home with winners ribbons.

    1. What a wonderful memory for those kids, I’m sure, Jo-Anne.

  19. Honestly, I can read about them but don’t want to watch any of the more dangerous ones. A high school friend almost died bull riding and it left me with some mental scars…. Barrel racing is good though.

    1. Totally understand, Glenda. It’s crazy dangerous.

  20. I’ve only been to one rodeo when I was about 13 years old. I do remember loving to watch the Bronc riders. Hard but fascinating job. I also loved the clowns during the bull riding.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  21. Welcome, Barbara! We’re so happy to have you and what and what a great subject. I love rodeos, but ranch rodeos that we have around here with all the ranches competing are my favorites. They’re not professionals but they have so much heart. They do it for bragging rights alone and they’re always so competitive. Bronc riding in those is what I like best. But in the professional ones it’s the bull riding. It’s so crazy dangerous! A man would have to have nerves of steel to get on one of those.

    Congrats on your latest book! Choose Me Cowboy looks like a great read. Love the cover. Hot!

    1. Thank you, Linda, for having me on the blog! You have such awesome readers here! And I know what you mean about the smaller rodeos. For the pride. There’s something pure about that kind of competition. Note to Self: Find small local rodeos soon! And thanks on the cover. Those Tule Publishing cover artists are awesome!

  22. That was a good read! I enjoyed your post! I always enjoyed barrel racing, but Bull riding was so exciting! ! Congratulations on your latest book…
    dkstevensne AT outlookDoTC om

  23. I love these posts, so much fascinating information. I enjoy the roping. It goes so quickly, I can’t figure out how they can get that done. My husband grew up riding horses and entering horse shows. Occasionally there was a rodeo and he would ride that bull. Not all that successful but fun to watch! (yes, we were high school sweethearts 😉 )

    1. Aw, then you have a very personal experience with it, Sally. Congrats on the high school sweethearts part. I love hearing success stories like that.

  24. Wow! I’ve never watched a rodeo. We don’t have them in Wisconsin. My favorite would be the bronc riding cowboys. The huge bulls scare me.

  25. have never been to rodeo! I think I would like bull riding the best though.

    1. Hope you can experience it someday, Shari!

  26. Love bull riding events! Have a dear friend who was a bull rider and although I never saw him ride I love his stories.

    1. Wish I knew one, Connie. I’d love to pick his brain! Alas, YouTube will have to suffice.

  27. I do enjoy the bull riding and the bronco riding. They make me nervous and I always worry that someone will get seriously injured. I guess the danger of the events is what draws people to them.
    Thanks for an interesting post. There were many details I didn’t realize about the sport. I find it interesting that the Brazilian bull rope hasn’t been welcomed to the sport. It would seem a safer option would be welcomed.

    1. Patricia, I agree. If only women were in charge…we’d definitely take the safer option. Right?

  28. Bull riding is my favorite!

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