"The only way to learn is to get on, so that's what I did," professional cowboy Luke Snyder says of his first time riding a bull. Only that was as a 10-year-old. "It was like your first fight. You just don't remember anything; everything happens really fast. He was probably 400, 500 pounds – I was probably 60!"
Now, after 13 years – during which he earned some $1.7 million and the World Champion title – Snyder is set to retire at the end of the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Series' 2013 season. (The 2013 Built Ford Tough World Finals, which will be televised from Las Vegas on the CBS Sports Network, start October 23, 2013, at 6 pm PT). Before he heads into the sunset at the ripe old age of 30, however, Snyder offered us a behind-the-scenes glimpse of life as an athlete in one of the most dangerous sports around. Snyder teaches bull-riding clinics every year and so was happy to offer advice for anyone curious about whether they have what it takes to jump on the back of nearly two tons of musclebound fury. His first piece of wisdom? "Realize the dangers," he says. "It's so dangerous you don't just do it for a hobby."
Mechanical bulls are bull.
Snyder says he's forever getting prodded to hop in the saddle whenever he's at a bar with a mechanical bull. While well-meaning, this request is like asking Mario Andretti to race shopping carts. "I'm trying to get the sport steered away from that. Those are for a bar, to have fun, and they're fun for that, but it's in no way similar to a real bull," he says. For training, there's nothing like the real thing. "We have actual practice bulls. It's the exact same feel, and they'll go through the motions but it won't be as hard," he says. "They are in no way the caliber of what you see on TV, but still I don't necessarily like to do it just because of the fact that I like to be able to get on and get paid. Even when you're getting on practice bulls, if they step on your leg, you could be out the whole season."