Professional bull riding is more of a lifestyle than it is an occupation. Those who do well in this sport and actually turn pro, started young -- competing in rodeos on the high school and college-level circuits. Most had a membership in a semi-pro association such as the American Bull Riders Tour, or ABT, before they entered the ranks of the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) or the PRCA -- Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
Take a Bull-Riding Class
Anyone from about the age of 12 can take a course in bull riding. Bull riding schools exist all over the country and usually consist of one-to-three days of training for bull riders of all skill levels. Typically, these classes are taught by former riders who've retired and who know the ins and outs of setting a bull. Taking a bull riding class will help you develop the right mental attitude, as well as the form and technique you need to succeed in this highly competitive sport.
Competing at the High School Level
Students in 9th through 12th grade, who are under 20 years of age, are eligible to enroll in the National High School Rodeo Association. According to the bylaws of the organization, the main purpose of the NHSRA is to promote the sport of high school rodeo on a national level. Secondary rules govern good sportsmanship and conduct. Young bull riders who compete as members of the NHSRA have the opportunity to earn scholarships, along with national recognition. This is an ideal way to get your spurs in the door as a pro rider.
Once a rider becomes too old for membership in the NHSRA, as a college student, he or she can then join the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. The NIRA exists, in part, expressly to provide competitive opportunities for college students who want to make bull riding a career. Membership in this organization can gain you admittance to prestige competitions and rewards, such as the College National Finals Rodeo which awards $200,000 in scholarships annually, as well as national recognition for your bull-riding skills.
No College -- Just Courage
Those who've spent their lives on the back of a bull without going the college route can join any number of local rodeo associations. These clubs are regional in nature and vary depending upon location. Or, if you think your skills are good enough, consider applying for membership in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. The main objective in joining an association is to gain practice and exposure. Most competitions won't allow you to compete unless you're affiliated with a rodeo association.
Once you've spent years competing, won national recognition, and desire to turn pro, it's time to apply for membership in PBR -- Professional Bull Riders. As a member or PBR, you'll specialize in bull-riding only. This allows you to focus and hone your skills and training. To become a member of PBR, you only need to be 18 years old. To advance through the ranks, however, you must compete and earn $2,500 annually. If you're good enough, you might find yourself eventually competing in the Built Ford Tough Series.