If you have ever watched a great western movie, you’ve probably wondered what it would be like to be a cowboy. Though a life full of roping cattle and riding bulls may seem like adventures only made for Hollywood, real rodeos aren’t just for the movies.
Today’s professional rodeos take place across the country and showcase one of the world’s most exciting and dangerous sports: bull riding.
Bull riding is an extreme sport few rules or timeouts — just a rider trying to stay on a hot-headed 2,000 pound bull for eight seconds.
Nearly 2 million fans attend the Professional Bull Riders’ (PBR) Built Ford Tough series and Touring Pro Division events each year. As the popularity of this risky sport grows, bull riding schools have seen a huge increase in attendance.
Gary Leffew, owner of Leffew Bull Riding World and the man behind teaching actor Luke Perry how to ride in the movie “8 Seconds” says his students take away more than just how to ride a bull. “They take away an attitude for life on what it takes to be a great bull rider and what it takes to be a great success in life, it’s a life lesson,” Leffew told FoxNews.com.
Whether you want to start competing professionally or simply looking to check off an item on your bucket list, bull riding is an experience like no other and is offered at schools across the nation.
Monster Bull Riding, Claremore, Oklahoma
“What do you want, how badly do you want it and what are you going to do about it.” That’s what David Berry, owner of Monster Bull Riding asks his students before they get on any of his bulls.
A typical day at Berry’s school starts with reviewing videos of professional riders and practicing techniques on a stationary bucking dummy (that’s what I am riding in the video). Once he feels his students have built up enough confidence, he gets them practicing on the real bucking bulls.
“Now days the kids get in a bind and they get scared and check out. You gotta give it all you’ve got every time you do it or you don’t need to be doing it at all,” professional bull rider Colby Yates told FoxNews.com.
Price: 3-day clinic $300 / One-day class $125
Let R’ Buck, North Canaan, Connecticut
This family owned and operated school invites their students to stay at their ranch and even offers them home cooked meals.
Owner and bull rider JW Gowan started his school as a way for him to continue practicing while he wasn’t out on tour, but once the word got out all kinds of eager riders wanted to attend. “We get a lot of girls out of the city (New York) that have bucket lists to ride a bull, but we have had students come from all over the world: Japan, England, California. I’ve even had people fly in from Korea,” Gowan told TKN
Gowan takes pride in his family driven reputation and says their wholesome down-home family style of teaching is the way cowboys are bred.
Price: Weekend session $300 / One-day class $175
Sankey Rodeo Schools, various locations
The first full-time rodeo school in the U.S. with locations across the country says they’ve adopted a modern coaching style with new training tools and stimulation units. Their “Il Toro” training unit has the shape of a real bull and is built to scale. It moves back and forth and rolls from side to side, simulating the action of a bucking bull.
The schools also offers classroom sessions that covers all aspects of the rodeo business including money management, sponsorships, training and conditioning.
Lyle Sankey, owner of Sankey Rodeo schools told that his students “take away the essentials of the sport and the building blocks to grow their career on.”
Price: 3 day session $410 with a $100 deposit
Although this school may be a bit far for some travelers it is well worth the trip to get instructed by 2011’s Last Cowboy Standing Champion, Luke Snyder.
Snyder teams up with world renowned Bull fighter Jesse Byrne for a two-day school this April 3-4th, giving students a great opportunity to learn two sets of rodeo skills.
As the bull riding Rookie of the Year title holder at the age of 19, Snyder’s advice to new students is to decide if you 100 percent want to be a bull rider. “There is no doubt this is a dangerous sport, so you have to first make sure it’s what you want to do and then I’m all for a kid to start. I mean PBR and bull riding has given me everything I’ve ever had, I’ve made great friendships through it and have had the chance to see the world”.
Price: $500 with a $200 deposit
Leffew Bull Riding World, Santa Maria, California (additional clinics available in various locations)
Gary Leffew has produced more PBR champions and finals qualifiers than any other bull riding school of its kind. His teaching methods stand out amongst other schools as he focuses not only on the proper mechanics but also on how to prepare mentally. Leffew insists that winning is 60 percent mental and 40 percent ability.
Colby Yates who attended Leffew’s California school advices “Gary is awesome as a teacher, he’s such a motivational speaker, and he really gets behind you and lifts your spirits up if you’re getting down. There’s probably a handful of PBR riders that actually still visit him to this day, it’s something that refreshes are memory on the basics and just gets the drive back again.”