Text by SHARON TICKLE
Photographs courtesy of EXTREME BULLRIDING
and SHARON TICKLE
DUST, SWEAT, testosterone and two tonnes of bucking, sharp-horned bull. Tight, blue jeans, wide smiles, high-energy music and Akubras. Welcome to the world of the wild men of rodeo.
Rodeo used to be a well-kept secret. Apart from the occasional Hollywood appearance, the city slicker’s rodeo experience was usually limited to the annual Royal Show’s equestrian events.
But since serious sponsorship dollars entered the picture in the mid-’90s, professional bull riding, wild horse racing, barrel racing and camp drafting extended rodeo’s reach. Now it’s easy to treat yourself to some real excitement. Before your next trip to Australia check the calendar of events for both the professional circuit and country town rodeos but be aware of the difference.
The pluses include a host of physically challenging men’s, women’s and kids’ events like children’s ‘goat tying’ (the child who lassoes and pins the goat first wins) and ‘mutton busting’ (kids ride a bucking sheep), as well as side show alley and a mechanical bull the punters can try their luck on.
And if you miss out on the rodeo circuit drop by Rockie’s Great Western Hotel’s Friday night rodeo. With an indoor rodeo arena, top rib fillet (exported to Raffles Hotel, Singapore) and cold beer on tap, the Great Western fills up quickly with locals and visitors all year round. Call +617 4922 1862 to find out the event schedule.
|BULL RIDER PROFILES|
1. Troy Dunn
So what does it take to stay on a raging bull for more than 8 seconds? I talked to two professional champion bull riders about how they prepare mentally and physically to stare down death. At 35 years of age Troy Dunn is the old man of rodeo with 13 years at the top of the sport. World bull riding champion in 1998, Troy’s cash winnings to date are impressive, but he doesn’t take success for granted. “So much of bull riding is mental, being ready for the animal in the chute. It takes at least four years to develop the skills. I train with weights and sprint three to four times a week all year round because a fit body makes a confident mind. Ninety per cent of bull riding is mental. I’m not superstitious any more, I used to have a special pair of socks but now I just do some self-talk before I go into the chute. My worst injury was at my first world final in Las Vegas. I got thrown and did the splits when I landed, dislocated my hips and was out for six months.”
2. Wayne Darr
2002 could be Wayne Darr’s year. The handsome 27-year-old Queenslander has been sitting at third or fourth place in the rankings and is fit, confident and looking forward to enjoying the championship season. “I practise on two or three bulls several times a week and go to the gym four times a week. I don’t smoke. It’s important to be positive, to think you’re a winner, to think you’re better than the bull. I respect the animals, they’re athletes in their own right and they’re seventy per cent of the sport. One time a bull’s horn hit the side of my face and caved my cheek in but I don’t think about that.”
A type of black or brown, wide-brimmed hat made of rabbit felt that’s worn by Australian country folk.
Women’s and men’s events see expert horsemanship as the rider races her steed around a figure eight course to clock the fastest time.
The rider must separate or ‘cut’ one steer from the herd and drive it around a course marked by poles in the fastest time without losing control of the beast to win.
Rockhampton is the beef capital of Australia. About four hours drive from Brisbane along Queensland’s beautiful coastline, Rockie is a traditional country town.
(pronounced ‘rodayo’, emphasis on the second syllable, by Australians over 50; and ‘rowdio’, with emphasis on the first syllable by the under 50s and all Americans except those who shop on Rodeo Drive). A kind of country carnival held at night where cowboys and cowgirls compete in skilful events involving horses, steers and bulls.
Wild Horse Races
A team of men must lasso, saddle and bridle an unbroken horse and assist one of them to ride it through a marked course. First rider across the line wins for their team.