"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."
Timing is everything.
One lesser-known tip for bull-riding neophytes is that bulls, like humans, tend to have habits that riders can pick up on. So Snyder and his peers can get an edge by scouting the bull they'll be riding. And the key to a good ride is getting in the bull's flow. "You want to pick up their timing. When they come up in the front, a lot of people's natural reaction would be to lean back and get away from their horns," Snyder says. "But if you lean forward instead, that takes their power away." The same theory applies to bucking. "When they kick, you lean back. But if you were already leaning back and they kick, all that centrifugal force would pull you right over their head." For the record, you don't want that to happen.