1 Here I am in the Green Room at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, dressed in my western garb.
2 I was there to attend the Professional Bull Riders - PBR - 500th Built Ford Tough Series regular-season Buck Off event.
3 The PBR was created in 1992 when a group of 20 bull riders broke away from the traditional rodeo scene seeking mainstream attention for the sport of professional bull riding.
4 Bull riding was, and is, generally the most popular event at a rodeo, so making it its own sporting event made sense. The original 20 bull riders invested $1,000 each to start the PBR.
5 In 2007, Spire Capital Partners finalized a deal with the PBR Board of Directors to acquire the interests of many of the retired founding riders and invest in the growth of the organization.
6 Those first 20 bull riders had turned their $1,000 into millions. PBR is owned today by 44 cowboys and Spire Capital.
7 More than 1,200 bull riders from the US, Australia, Brazil, Canada, and Mexico belong to PBR. They compete in more than 300 bull riding events per year.
8 The ultimate goal for PBR athletes each year is to qualify for the prestigious PBR World Finals in Las Vegas where the coveted title of PBR World Champion is decided.
9 Interestingly, in 1995, 310,000 fans attended PBR events across the nation. Today the PBR attracts over 1.5 million live event attendees each year. PBR reports that most shows across the country are sold out.
10 A qualified ride is 8 seconds. The clock starts when the bull's shoulder or flank breaks the plane of the gate and stops when the rider's hand comes out of the rope, the rider touches the ground, or the rider's free arm touches the bull.
11 The bull rider must ride with one hand and is disqualified if he touches himself or the bull during the 8-second ride. Both rider and bull are judged and receive points for their performance.
12 Here I am with my camera crew before the event. I interviewed various officials and bull riders and learned quite a bit about this thrilling sport.
13 The soil that lined the floor of the arena was trucked in from the next state, New Jersey.
14 After the 3-day event, all of this dirt was swept up and carted back to New Jersey.
15 My first interview was held in the center of the arena on what is called the Shark Cage.
16 I spoke to Flint Rasmussen, who is perhaps the most famous rodeo clown, or rodeo barrelman, in the sport of bull riding. Flint has been the official entertainer of the PBR since 1998.
17 We talked all about the history and growth of the PBR. He told me which cities he thinks draw the best crowds and fans, who is the best dressed, and how he keeps the crowds entertained in between riders.
18 A nice shot of me and the very friendly Flint Rasmussen
19 I went on to interview retired bull rider, Jerome Robinson in the bull pit in the arena.
20 Jerome spoke about the care, safety, and welfare of the animal athletes. All of the bulls who participate in the PBR are called animal athletes.
21 The average PBR bucking bull weighs in at 1,700-1,800 pounds. PBR bucking bulls very rarely weigh less than 1,200 pounds, but can weigh as much as 2,000-2,200 pounds.
22 In the PBR, the bulls are treated with as much respect as the humans who ride them. A bull bucks only one time per day and no more than two times total at a typical event.
23 These animal athletes are from ranches from across the country. The PBR has strict rules for the feeding, travel, and care of the bulls that tour with the PBR.
24 Next, I learned about bull riding techniques and rules with bull rider JB Mauney, who is arguably the most popular bull rider on the circuit today.
25 JB showed me the proper way to tie the bull rope onto the bull. The bull rope is the cowboy's only anchor for the duration of his ride.
26 He then demonstrated on the Mighty Bucky toy bull.
27 JB Mauney is the current PBR World Champion.
28 With the exception of his rookie year, JB has never ended a season ranked outside the Top 10 and has only been outside the Top 3 twice.
29 I also spoke with bull rider, Shane Proctor, about the fashion of the PBR. Apart from being a bull rider, Shane is also a bareback and saddle bronc rider.
30 One of the most talented bull riders in the PBR, Shane also competes on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and was the PRCA world champion bull rider in 2011.
31 Chaps are considered 'equipment' in bull riding and Shane is all about the chaps. He and his wife own 2AM Leather which produces custom western leather products and where he makes his own chaps for the PBR tour.
32 Shane explained to me that leather chaps protect the cowboy's legs from both the bull and the unforgiving steel chutes.
33 The fringe on the sides, a traditional decorative accent, helps the rider bring the judges' attention to his legwork. Shane likes combining colors and using flashy metallics in his designs.
34 Shane said that his chaps are built to last and will wear the same pair all season.
35 Next, we talked about the bull rope, which is wrapped around the bull's chest directly behind his front legs. The flat rope has a leather handle braided into it that the cowboy grips. The tail of the rope then passes through the palm, behind the hand, and back through the palm.
36 A single glove protects the riding hand from the intense pressure and friction of the bull rope during the ride.
37 We then discussed headgear. The PBR leaves the choice of headwear up to the individual rider. Riders may choose to wear only a cowboy hat out of a sense of tradition, or because they feel helmets interfere with balance and vision.
38 Shane told me that often cowboys will wear a helmet and/or a mask after a particularly nasty face or head injury. Bull riding is quite risky and has been called "the most dangerous 8 seconds in sports."
39 I also met some very important members of the PBR, the Dickies DuraBullfighters. Here I am with Frank Newsom and Shorty Gorham.
40 In the blink of an eye, a bull can make a beeline dive at a defenseless rider, milliseconds after a ride is over. These fearless men distract the bull when a ride is over, while a rider safely gets out of harm's way after hitting the dirt.
41 Jesse Byrne is another member of the Dickies DuraBullfighters.
42 Instead of climbing upon the strongest bulls in the world, these cowboy lifesavers throw themselves in front of the best animal athletes.
43 After the arena filled up with spectators, a pyrotechnic display launched the event.
44 And the first bull and rider emerged.
45 Bulls eat high-protein feed and Alfalfa hay. High-protein feed helps the bulls keep their strength and endurance. Premium Alfalfa hay is considered high-quality hay because it provides nutrients that help keep a bull healthy.
46 The bulls live on large ranches where they get plenty of air and exercise. There are many ranches from coast-to-coast in the US.
47 Here I am with Dan Dienst and his wife, Jill.
48 I was awed by the sheer strength of the bulls.
49 I was also awed by the cowboys' ability to endure all the bucking.
50 I was introduced to the crowd and was projected onto the Jumbotron.
51 I told everyone that I was a new fan of bull riding!
52 I had the honor of presenting a Stanley Studfinder to a lucky audience member.
53 The audience was certainly an animated one!
54 I chose the lucky winner!
55 A photo with the winner
56 These fellows wanted a photo with me.