"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."
Stitches don't count.
When your opponent is a two-ton mass of muscle, bone, horn, and hoof, it's not a matter of if you're going to get hurt, but when. Snyder says his first major injury was when he busted his arm and ended up with two bones poking through skin when he was just 12. Yet he was back in the saddle the next weekend. That's the thing with bull riding: "We don't count stitches," Snyder says. "You don't get paid unless you ride, period. We'll compete with injuries that a lot of professional athletes won't." In his career, Snyder has broken his neck and back vertebrae, both arms, both legs, and his nose, and has torn his rotator cuff and ACL. He says this is considered lucky.