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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thursday Cardinal Couple -- YOU GOTTA KNOW THE RULES


-The Commish explains the rules

( Mark continues his series on the PBR today with a review of the rules. We wonder how they are explained to the bulls...Enjoy!) 

As with any sport there are rules.  In Bull Riding the rules are simple. Stay on the Bull for 8 seconds and you will receive a score provided certain conditions are met.  Here now the rules as stated by the PBR:
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.

Four judges rate each rider and each bull on a scale from 1-25. Those points are added together and divided in half to reach a rider score and a bull score of between 0-50. Those numbers are then combined to reach a final ride score between 0-100.  For example, let us say Paulie Sykes--(Cardinal Couple Co-Owner & senile Senior Columnist)--- is on the back of a beast and he executes a qualified ride while holding an open can of BUD SELECT in his free hand and does not spill a drop.  That would not gain him extra style points but he would receive a SCORE: Let us say he and the bull get the following scores:

        Rider scores   Bull scores
Judge 1   22.50          21.00

Judge 2   21.00          22.00

Judge 3   22.00          22.75

Judge 4   21.50          21.75

Rider Scores added together (22.50 + 21.00 + 22.00 + 21.50) divided by 2 gives the rider 43.50 points.

Bull Scores added together (21.00 + 22.00 + 22.75 + 21.75) divided by 2 gives the Bull 43.75 points.

The total score for the ride would then be: 87.25 (43.50 + 43.75).

87.25 points is a pretty good score.  Paulie did well.

The bull always receives a score, even if the rider is bucked off. His score is based on his degree of difficulty. Judges look for drop in the front end, kick in the back, spin, and direction changes.

In the above example, the Bull's SCORE is 43.75.  Even if Paulie was bucked off, the BULL still would receive his score of 43.75 points. Paulie receives nothing but a few broken bones and is left with a crushed can of Bud Select that the Bull stomped on as it fell out of Paul's hand to the arena floor.  (Paulie was warned before the ride that his actions were dangerous and that he could spill his beer.)

( Editor's note. Anyone who saw me river-board down a boulder-filled, raging stream a couple of summers ago in California will realize that bull-riding is like riding a tricycle to me.) 

A Bull score of 43.75 is considered an average score for a Bull in the PBR.  (Bulls are rated by their average BULL SCORES.)  A rider can estimate the type of score he could potentially get if the bull performs up to expectations and he does as well. Look at it this way: If a bull’s RATING is 43 (his average points each out), and the rider does his job, simply double the bull’s RATING  and you have a ballpark figure of the total score a Rider could receive.  In this example he "should" score at least 86 points. Of course, Bulls do not always perform to expectations and neither do the riders.  The key to scoring a high point total is to ride a Bull that scores high. If the rider stays centered on the bull and demonstrates control during his ride, the judges will usually mark him equal to or even a point or two higher than the Bull.  As a rule, the BULL score determines the kind of mark a rider will get.  The higher the bull scores, the higher the rider can score.

A bull that averages 44-50 points is Excellent

A bull that averages 42-43.75 points would be an Average PBR Bull.

A Bull that averages 40-41.75 points would be Fairly Good but not great

A Bull that averages 39.75 -below on a consistent basis would not be on the PBR tour very long.

Want to see an Excellent Bull in action?  Here is video of one of the Top Bulls in the PBR named ASTEROID. This OUT he scored 47.25 points.  If the rider stayed on he could have scored almost 95 points or more.  All of the elements needed for a high bull score were present: drop in the front end, kick in the back, spin, and direction changes.  This is evident and easy to see when it is replayed in Super Slow Motion.  Check out the POWER this bull has especially when viewing what happened to the rider at the very end. (And Paulie wants to be a Bull Rider.)

A rider only receives a score if he lasts the required 8 seconds. Judges look for control - the ability of the rider to successfully counter the moves of the bull. Spurring is not required, but tends to demonstrate control, and can add points.

Cardinal Couple staff chimp Coco is a
veteran bull rider.
Every sport has an action an athlete performs that shows excellence. In baseball it is a home run, football a touchdown, and boxing a knockout.  In Bull Riding it is a 90 point ride.  Since 90 points is the Gold Standard in Bull Riding, a Rider would like to ride a bull that averages at least 45 points.

What does a 90 point ride look like?  Here is an example of a rider that had “A LOT OF BULL” and took advantage of it.  He countered every move the Bull made and was never out of position.  He scored 95 points. (96.5 points is the PBR record).  Because the Bull bucked so hard the rider’s helmet flew off during the ride.

Who determines which bull a rider is going to have at each Event?  It is decided by the draw.  The Draw is an event's list of bull riders and the bulls with which they are randomly paired. The draw for a Built Ford Tough Series event is typically created via computer the Wednesday prior to an event. If a bull rider says he has a 'good draw' it means he is happy with the bull that he was randomly selected to ride.

Also, there is something called "the draft".  After the first round of each event, there is a second round consisting of the top 10 riders in the round. They get to select the bull they wish to ride.  Some try to choose the one that "fits" them. Some choose the one that may give them the most points or one they feel is the most easiest to ride.

( We just hope David Stern isn't at this particular draft. )

There is a Fifth Judge at the events and he is positioned on the announcer stand.  He reviews replays in the event of an infraction or when a contestant challenges a ruling. The decision of the replay judge is final. Yes, in the PBR there is a replay judge. A rider can actually challenge a ruling.  Here is how it works:

Bobby Petrino after bull riding? 
Say a rider completes his 8 second ride but the Judge says he slapped the bull with his free hand and got disqualified, thus removing his score from the board. The rider can push the challenge button located by the chute and the ride will be reviewed.  IF IN THE RIDER'S FAVOR, he will then receive a score.  If however the decision STANDS and there is nothing to turn the decision over, the rider is out $500 from his own pocket.  What is interesting is this:  ANY rider can push the challenge button. Here is a real example that led to some controversy:

A rider came out of the chutes and within the first few jumps, his free hand came across his body in front of him and went down and he touched the bull.  He continued riding and got a score. At this time ANOTHER RIDER went to a judge and asked him if he saw him touch the bull. The judge said no. So he went over to the challenge button and pushed it.   A challenge of another rider's ride had never been done in the PBR until then.  It was reviewed and it showed he did indeed touch the Bull and his score was taken down.  Needless to say the rider was MAD. He said that was just not the "cowboy way". The rider that challenged it said he did so because he felt the judges had been inconsistent with two calls earlier in the night.

Was this rider wrong for pushing the challenge button?  I don’t think he was because it was within the rules.  The purpose of the replay is to get the call right.  No one faults the rider who challenged his fellow bull rider's ride.  Let’s just say it was unprecedented and to date has not happened again. 

 Here is the video of the ride in question.  The slap the Judges missed is obvious.
If the bull's performance is sub-par (negatively affecting the ride score) or if a foul occurs during the ride (the rider is rubbed against the chute, the bull stumbles, the flank strap detaches, etc.) judges can offer the rider a chance to take a re-ride.  If a rider's bull performed poorly and received a low score, he is offered the re-ride ONLY IF HE STAYED ON THE FULL 8 SECONDS.  If he was bucked off before the 8 seconds, and the Bull score was low he could not get a re-ride. If he fell off because the bull stumbled and its momentum was stopped, a re-ride could be offered.

If a rider's total score was low (e.g. 68) because HE performed poorly, he would not get a re-ride.  For example, his score would be low if he was hanging off the side of the bull during the qualified ride. In this case his score would definitely be lower than the Bull and because it was his fault he received a low score, no re-ride would be offered.

Furthermore, the re-ride IS AN OPTION.  He does not have to take it.  If a rider scores 68 points and is happy with that he can let it stand.  If he chooses the re-ride option the points are taken OFF THE BOARD and he is offered a chance on another bull. It is usually best to TAKE THE RE-RIDE because 68 points may not be enough to win an event. It is usually best to take a chance on a new bull and try for a higher score.  Usually the re-ride bull offered is easier than the one he just rode.  By easier I mean he is usually more rider friendly or predictable.

Why would a rider DECLINE a re-ride?  Here are a few reasons:

-If he was the final ride and scored just enough to be declared the winner of the event there would be no need to try for more points.  Quit while your ahead.  Remember, the points would be taken down and if he failed on the re-ride he would lose the event he already WON.

-If a rider was injured he may choose to decline the re-ride. 

-Sometimes the DOCTOR will step in and decline it for him if the injury is too serious. (The rider may want to accept the re-ride in his condition but the Doctor has the FINAL SAY.) 
Some riders may take the low score and decline the re-ride as a "business decision".  Even though it may not be high enough to win the EVENT, the rider is looking at the LONG RUN. Since points are added to the overall standings for the entire year he may decline because his thought would be if he rode MORE BULLS during the year than the others, there would be a good chance he would have more TOTAL POINTS AT THE END OF THE SEASON and become the WORLD CHAMPION. I call this the "BULL IN HAND THEORY".

I have seen times where a rider declined a re-ride, kept his low score, and it caused him to lose the event by a couple points. Just think if he took a re-ride and was successful.  He would have won.  And if he was unsuccessful? As one can see the points he kept were not enough anyway.
Most Rider's will always take their re-rides. They want to score as many points as possible. They want to WIN events and place in the money.
Angel to Geno;
"That's a bunch of bull..."
Sometimes a spur will get caught in the rope. If a rider is caught placing his spur in the rope as he mounts the bull inside the chute he is disqualified.  No score if ridden.  However, if during the ride a spur gets caught in the rope, that’s ok. Generally speaking, a rider is not allowed to catch his spur in the knot of the rigging because it provides an unfair advantage for hanging on.

If a contestant is taking too much time in the bucking chute or sulking his bull he can be disqualified. I saw this happen once.  The rider was taking too long. He had several chances to nod his head and leave the chute.  The judge had no part of it. One could hear him say, “That’s it—Get off!—You're disqualified!!” The reason for this is to protect the bull and keep it from being injured.  Also, it tires him out and the rider may get an unfair advantage. The Judge can usually tell when a rider is sulking his bull. 

The object is to get out as quick as possible.  There is no 30 second clock so it is a judgment call.  Judges are experienced and can tell if it is because a bull won’t cooperate.  Sometimes if the rider can’t get “out” on the bull because of that---he may be given a different bull for his ride. He usually has 3 tries to get out.

What triggers the opening of the chute and the beginning of the ride?  Pretty simple really.  The Cowboy will usually nod his head.  I have heard some Cowboys shout "GO!!", "BUCK HIM", or "OPEN THE GATE".  Sometimes this is known as "Calling For The Gate".  Sometimes if a rider is bucked off because the gate was opened and he did not call for it he may get a re-ride.

There you have it. The rules of Bull Riding in the PBR. By knowing these it will be easier for new fans to follow the sport and understand it.  For a crash course in Bull Riding 101, view this short video.

Commish Mark 

 ( Thanks for sharing the "ins and outs" of bull riding, Mark. The staff at CARDINAL COUPLE is still ready to ride a bull...we just want to be coated in bubble wrap and foam rubber.) 


  1. I have learned a lot more about bull riding from reading these articles, Mark. A couple of questions:

    Do the bull riders also ride bucking broncos?
    How popular is the sport in other countries?


    Joe Hill

    1. Thanks Joe! Glad you have enjoyed and learned from them.

      As far as the current riders I suspect that some of them ride bucking broncos particularly if they compete in a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) event/championship.

      The PRCA is an organization whose members compete in rodeos throughout North America, primarily in the United States and has 8 events and 10 Championships: All-Around--(award given to a rodeo competitor who is most successful in two or more events), Bareback riding, Steer wrestling,Team roping,Headers - (Cowboys who rope the steer's head),Heelers - (Cowboys who rope the steer's hind feet),Saddle bronc riding,Tie-down roping, Steer roping,Barrel racing and Bull riding.

      Some PBR riders are members of the PRCA which is not affiliated with the PBR.

      The most famous PBR/PRCA member who rode broncos was founding PBR member TY MURRAY. While competing in the PRCA his events were Bareback Riding,Saddle Bronc Riding and Bull Riding and is the 9 time World Champion: 1989-94, '98 All-Around; '93, '98 Bull Riding. He competed on Season 8 of ABC's hit TV show, "Dancing with the Stars."

      The sport is very popular in other countries: Riders from the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Canada, and Mexico hold PBR memberships. The PBR has International circuits: PBR Australia, PBR Brazil, PBR Canada and PBR Mexico. Bull Riding is really big in Brazil. As a matter of fact, 7 of the top 10 Riders in the current PBR standings are from BRAZIL. (The last two World Champions were from there as well---the Brazilians are some of the best Bull Riders.)



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