How bull rid­ers get ready for eight sec­onds

The Prince George Citizen - - Sports -

Gar­rett Green found good ad­vice for rid­ing a bull in the book The In­ner Game of Ten­nis.

Pre­par­ing to board a three-quar­ter ton mass of mus­cle, horn and un­pre­dictabil­ity named Fid­get Spin­ner or Mr. Sun­shine tends to ruf­fle the mind.

Green ap­plies knowl­edge gleaned from a men­tal-train­ing book about a racket sport to bull rid­ing, al­though a ten­nis ball won’t chase and gore you af­ter a drop shot.

“There’s two of you go­ing into bat­tle,” ex­plains the 27-year-old from Meet­ing Creek, Alta. “One of you is an anx­ious over-thinker and the other one is laid back and he goes and he does it.

“I’ve got to be the No. 2. You can’t let anx­ious guy get up in there and make you all scared.”

The hour be­fore a bull rid­ing event is an in­ter­est­ing one around the chutes. Ath­letes deal with what they’re about to do in dif­fer­ent ways.

Rou­tines that oc­cupy – some might say dis­tract – the mind are use­ful.

For some, con­serv­ing men­tal and phys­i­cal en­ergy is para­mount for those eight sec­onds when the body floods with adrenaline and the mind sud­denly has a lot to deal with.

“I find I have more suc­cess when I’m more re­laxed,” said reign­ing Cana­dian bull rid­ing cham­pion Wacey Finkbeiner of Medicine Hat, Alta.

“The more worked up I get, the worse I per­form. I just like hang­ing out with my bud­dies and jok­ing around. The last thing on my mind be­fore I crawl in the chute is rid­ing bulls.”

Finkbeiner is among the bull rid­ers in­vited to the Cal­gary Stam­pede rodeo open­ing Fri­day. One of the rich­est rodeos in the world of­fers a to­tal of $2 mil­lion in prize money.

Win­ners of the July 14 fi­nals in bull rid­ing, steer wrestling, tie-down rop­ing, sad­dle bronc, bare­back and bar­rel rac­ing each earn a cheque for $100,000 in ad­di­tion to prize money they’ve col­lected dur­ing the 10-day rodeo.

Luck feels like an im­por­tant in­gre­di­ent in a volatile sport like bull rid­ing, but it was dif­fi­cult to find a su­per­sti­tious rider at this week’s Cody Sny­der Char­ity Bull­bustin event in south­west Cal­gary.

Jor­dan Hansen, another Stam­pede in­vi­tee, knows of a few cases.

“There are some peo­ple who won’t eat chicken be­fore they get on be­cause they feel you are what you eat,” Hansen said. “I’m se­ri­ous. That is one.

“Peo­ple won’t put their hat on a bed. Some­one started that and they say it’s bad luck.

“Another thing. Yel­low. They don’t want to wear yel­low in the arena. That one I think started back from Ro­man era times when the cow­ards got painted with yel­low.”

Hansen, from Okotoks, Alta., spends the hour be­fore his ride getting treat­ment on aches and pains in the sports medicine trailer and so­cial­iz­ing with his bull-rid­ing brethren.

If he’s never rid­den the bull he’s drawn, Hansen might go size up the an­i­mal he hopes will bring a good pay­day.

“You don’t see it much up here, but you see guys in the States put their hand on the (bull’s) back and say a prayer,” he said.

Todd Cho­towetz of Ma­jor, Sask., re­sists the urge to get scout­ing re­ports from fel­low com­peti­tors or the stock con­trac­tor on the bull he’s drawn.

“In the back of your mind, you kind of want to know, but you know you shouldn’t want to know,” he said. “Don’t try and set a game plan for any bull. They don’t all have a set pat­tern any­way. If you can turn your brain right off, it would be the best thing you could do. Too bad it doesn’t work like that all the time.”

Ban­ter­ing with other rid­ers be­hind the chutes helps keep Green’s mind clear.

“It helps you not think about it if you talk about some­thing else,” he said. “I don’t mind talk­ing about bull rid­ing, but I don’t want to talk about the bull I’m about to get on or what he’s about to do.”

The mo­ment of truth ar­rives quickly enough when Green low­ers him­self onto the bull’s back in the chute.

“You’re getting down on a big, scary an­i­mal,” Green said. “I take a big, deep breath.”

CP FILE PHOTO

Mar­cos Glo­ria, of Ed­mon­ton wins the 2018 bull rid­ing event at the Cal­gary Stam­pede last July.

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