BLAKE BELDEN/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT A bull rider struggles to stay on during a competition at the Chesterfield County Fair.
CHESTERFIELD — Mounted high on top of a thrashing mass of horned beast and stomping hooves, more than 20 competitors held on as long as they could in an attempt to take home the $800 grand prize last weekend at the Chesterfield County Fair.
It was a two-night bull riding rodeo hosted by the Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association (SEBRA), where hundreds of people gathered around the red fences to witness riders test their strength and balance before plummeting in a spray of dirt.
Each rider wore a caged helmet and protective vest as they sat on a bull in a small, fenced-in containment area waiting for the gates to open and the timer to start.
The announcer shouted that an eight-second showing was a good target performance, however many riders barely lasted five seconds before the bull’s maddened circular motions threw them off.
Cory Sparks, a bull rider from Unionville, Va., described the experience after the event.
“It’s an adrenaline rush, man. Everything goes quiet. ...You can’t let it get in your head. You’ve got to focus and just ride. Don’t worry about nothing anybody says, just ride,” he said.
Sparks, who has been bull riding for four years and competed in six events last week, said that what started out as something for kicks became an addiction and a full-time commitment.
“Once it’s in your blood you’re hooked. There’s no turning around. You just got to stick with it and bear it out,” Sparks said. “I’m not going to give it up until I have to.”
As far as practicing for an event, it is an everyday occurrence for Sparks, however minus the ferocious live animal.
BLAKE BELDEN/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT A bull rider is tossed to the ground Aug. 30 at the Chesterfield County Fair.
“At home I got a bucking barrel that just goes up and down that rows and kicks like a bull would. I get on it every afternoon and practice up and come to these bull ridings,” he said.
After each rider was hurled from the bull’s back, there were two men in the ring who ran around and helped drive the bulls out of the arena and back into a designated, fenced-in area.
No one was injured by a bull during Friday night’s event.
There was a separate winner for both competitions held on Friday and Saturday, who each walked away with a sum of $800. The winners were determined by two judges who scored each rider’s efforts by a point system based on length of time and the difficulty of the bull.
Many riders earn more than $10,000 through bull riding events, with Shane Stiffler currently at the top of SEBRA’s 2013 standings earning a total $13,853.52 so far this year, according to SEBRA’s website.
BLAKE BELDEN/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT A bull rider prepares to be let out of the gate.
SEBRA is the largest bull riding association in North America with almost 20 years of history and over 450 organized rodeos in the United States under it’s belt.