Story by Quinnen Taylor, contributing writer
As the bulls entered the stalls at the William “Bill” Cherry Agricultural Exposition Center for the 2016 Bull Blowout, the physical challenge turned mental for the bull riders.
The Bull Blowout is a weekend spectacle that started in 1994 and since then has been an annual Murray, Kentucky staple.
The event features mutton busting, calf scramble, barrel racing and bull riding.
Penny Parsons, coordinator for the Bull Blowout, said the rodeo isn’t just an event, but an American tradition.
“Everyone likes to see fast horses and ranked bulls,” Parsons said. “It’s America’s roughest sport. We’re keeping American heritage going. We bring in a lot of cowboys all over from different states. It’s just exciting to see these guys come in and want to ride some good bulls.”
The first event of the night was mutton busting, an activity featuring kids riding sheep.
Once the sheep were back in the stalls, the bulls entered center stage for the second event: bull riding.
In bull riding, the competitors attempt to stay on the bull for eight seconds. If the competitor remains on the bull for the allotted time, they are awarded points.
If more than one person stays on for the eight second period, they go by “style points.”
The participant who is awarded the most points is the victor; however, if no one is awarded points, then the winner is based on who stayed on the longest.
The maximum number of points possible for a ride is 100 points. Fifty points are possible for each the rider and the bull.
At the end of Friday night, two riders were awarded. Jonesboro, Arkansas native Tyler Lewis, received 75 points and Cross Plains, Tennessee native Riley Bibee earned 80 points.
Bibee said bull riding requires a courageous effort.
“As far as your mental training, your main key is confidence,” Bibee said. “You always have to believe in yourself before you can ever accomplish anything. You don’t really have time to think when you’re on the back of the bull; you just have to have that muscle reaction that puts you where you need to be.”
Along with confidence, Bibee also mentioned bull riding requires a physical toll to the body.
“There’s always going to be bumps and bruises,” Bibee said. “What may seem major in another sport, a bull rider will compete with. I broke my right tib and fib last June and had a rod put in my leg, but it’s all part of the fun.”
Jerald Reynolds, another bull rider from Anna, Illinois, said he’s endured similar consequences.
“I’ve been knocked out several times,” Reynolds said. “I broke my jaw and broke my nose. I broke my right shoulder. You got to take the pain, it’s part of it.”
Bull Blowout then staged another event: barrel racing.
During barrel racing, horses have to run specific patterns around barrels and the horse and rider that finish the pattern the fastest wins.
The fastest ride for Friday clocked in at 14.26 seconds by a contestant from Jackson, Georgia; Summer Conley with her horse, Fly By Sizzlin’.
At the end of the contest, the contestants lived to fight another day and compete in yet another rodeo.