Bull Rid­ing 101 A Q&A with two fear­less cow­boys

Howler Magazine - - Lifestyle -

Bull rid­ing is an in­trin­sic part of Costa Rica cul­ture and en­ter­tain­ment, es­pe­cially in Gua­nacaste. It's one thing to get in a ring and run away from bulls (which is also pop­u­lar), but it's an­other thing to get on the bull's back and try to hold on while he bucks with all his strength. The Howler talked to two vet­eran bull rid­ers to find out how they do it — and, of course, why.

Wal­ter Ro­driguez Espinoza

Known as “Chir­imba,” Ro­driguez is a 45-year-old for­mer bull rider from Santa Cruz. He has been rid­ing bulls since he was 14, and he is the founder of two bull-rid­ing groups, San­gre Nueva (“New Blood”) for begin­ners and Los Ba­jureños de Santa Cruz (“The Low­lan­ders of Santa Cruz”) for pros.


We train twice a week, Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Part of the train­ing is weightlift­ing, car­dio ex­er­cise and rid­ing “The Bar­rel,” which sim­u­lates the move­ments of a bull. A bull rider is a well-rounded ath­lete who needs good prepa­ra­tion, strength train­ing, bal­ance, re­sis­tance and fo­cus to be able to ride a bull.


When we ar­rive at the venue we get to­gether and say a spe­cial prayer in which we put this en­tire spec­ta­cle in the hands of God, and dur­ing the whole event we mu­tu­ally en­cour­age each other. There are peo­ple who tell us we're crazy for get­ting on a bull, but peo­ple don't know how much we pre­pare our­selves phys­i­cally and men­tally for this sport. And be­sides, a man who rides a bull does it be­cause he has it in his blood, he car­ries it in his heart and his soul, and so we don't have to be crazy or on drugs, it's our lifestyle.


Once when I was rid­ing a bull called “El Santa Cruz,” I fell off the an­i­mal and my shirt got hooked and the bull dragged me a long time, beat­ing me up pretty bad. We pre­pare rid­ers for sit­u­a­tions like this and for any even­tu­al­ity, and they know what to do.

Jean­car­los Cis­neros Gu­tier­rez

Cis­neros, 28, of Santa Cruz has been rid­ing bulls since he was 14, start­ing with calves for fun with his brothers and his friends. It be­came a pas­sion and he started train­ing to do it pro­fes­sion­ally. He started rid­ing bulls at fi­es­tas on Thurs­days and Fri­days, and as he im­proved his tech­nique he moved to Satur­days and Sun­days, when they ride the big­gest, fiercest bulls. At 17, in 2007, he was de­clared bull-rid­ing cham­pion of the Los Guay­a­canes group.

We don’t have to be crazy or on drugs, it’s our lifestyle.


I do it be­cause I like the feel­ing and the adren­a­line rush it gives you. My grand­fa­ther was a bull rider, and so are my brothers. It's some­thing you're born with, and I carry it in my blood.


I train from Mon­day to Fri­day for 30 min­utes on “The Bar­rel” to im­prove my move­ment and de­velop strength in my legs, and I also lift weights and do car­dio

Costa Rica bull rid­ing fe­s­i­val in full ac­tion, Brasil­ito, Fe­bru­ary 2018

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