Bull riders hang on for eight-second ride of their life
Submitted by: MCAS Miramar
Story Identification #: 200471154234
Story by - Lance Cpl. Skye Jones

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. -- A common phrase in bull riding is "It's not if you get hurt, it's when."

Servicemembers in the Professional Armed Forces Rodeo Association deal with that dilemma every time they strap on to an approximately 2,000 pound bucking bull. But, their glory comes after the ride when they experience a sense of accomplishment and pride. Their skills were recently put to the test in at the San Diego County Fair June 19 and 20 where they competed for prizes totaling $10,000.

There are seven events in a sanctioned rodeo: bull riding, bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, team roping, barrel racing and calf roping. Bull riding is considered to be one of the more risky events in the rodeo and one of the most dangerous sports in the world.

A bull rider puts himself in jeopardy each time he gets up on a raging bull. He makes an effort to stay on top of the bull for eight seconds for a wild ride of fury. His strongest hand is strapped to the bull while the other hand is left free to help keep his balance.

"The risk factor is very high in this sport. I broke my leg in my last competition and I am waiting for it to heal to get back out there again," mentioned Petty Officer 3rd Class Eric Coker, maintenance machinist, Southwest Region Maintenance Center, and California Circuit director for PAFRA.

"Bull riding is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. You have to have your head in the right place," added the Bakersfield, Calif., native.

One levelheaded cowboy from Miramar competed in the bull-riding event and ended up getting bucked off on his first ride, resulting in minor injuries. He fell off onto the ground on all fours, where his bull ran over his back legs. However, Cpl. Joseph L. Dickens, airframes hydraulic mechanic, Marine Aircraft Group 16 got right back up on his bull for the next round.

"When I'm up on the bull I try to focus on what he's doing. I try my best to balance myself and I always make sure I am one step ahead," explained the Colorado Springs, Colo., native. "Also, I go into the event with a clear mind. If I think that I am going to mess up it will happen. You must have a positive mind set,"

Though bull riding is dangerous, it and other events in the rodeo continue to draw in many risk takers and spectators who find enjoyment in watching the excitement.

"It's just the greatest. Whether you win or lose, you can still have a great time. To me the rodeo as a whole is all about personal accomplishment," said Coker. "You are competing mainly against yourself, trying to be the best you can be."

To find out more information or to join PAFRA, contact Coker at (909) 834-4224 or Dickens at (303) 596-0140 or e-mail Coker at eric.coker@navy.mil.

Marines from the Professional Armed Forces Rodeo Association competed in the bull riding competition at the San Diego County fair. Anyone can join the association and participate in any of the seven rodeo events. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Skye Jones