"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."
Ride through the whistle.
It is notable that the entire sport of bull riding is based on the capacity of a rider to stay atop a bull for the length of time it will take to read this paragraph. And yet fortunes have been made and lost, lives forever changed or ruined in that moment. The point is that those eight seconds are everything and so require absolute, rock-solid focus. "Bulls can change directions on a dime," Snyder cautions. "There are so many wrenches they can throw in your plan during the ride, and that's why you always have to keep moving and ride right through the whistle. It's only eight seconds, but it can last forever sometimes."