Bull rider shrugs off risk of injury

2013-02-17T00:00:00Z 2013-02-19T14:41:29Z Bull rider shrugs off risk of injuryZack Rosenblatt Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Cheyne Olney has a process.

Before he gets ready for a bull ride, he stretches.

"I just get loosened up," he said.

He needs to stretch, especially after driving 874 miles from Weatherford, Texas, to Tucson for the 88th annual La Fiesta de los Vaqueros.

He stretches his groins, hamstrings, arms and shoulders.

Olney, like any athlete getting ready for a big game or event, doesn't want to pull a muscle.

Then, Olney puts his gear on. The boots with the spurs, which help with balance; chaps to add a little flair to his outfit; and leather gloves to protect from rope burn.

The rope, or bull rope, has a leather handle braided to the center and is wrapped around the chest of a bull, behind its front legs. The rope has a rosin coating, to keep it sticky.

"You gotta get it warm, get it sticky," he said, "so it doesn't come out of your hand."

Lastly, he throws on his cowboy hat, and he's ready to go. A cowboy hat is distinctly not protective. It's not a helmet.

"I used to wear one (a helmet) when I was younger," Olney said. "Then, I decided to just start riding without it. There's a little more risk, but whatever."

Before Olney rides, he focuses on being positive. On not getting scared.

He clears his head, and he rides.

On Saturday, Olney did not last eight seconds on his bull, the required amount in order to receive a score. He was catapulted off the bull within the first few seconds, but it didn't hurt.

Now, it's onto the next one for Olney.

He doesn't have time to dwell, or to complain. Only time for the next ride.

Less than an hour after riding, he would hit the road and head back to Texas, to San Antonio for another ride.

That's the life of a bull rider.

Every time Olney, 22, rides the bull, he's risking his life, but that goes with the job description. Every bull rider knows what he's getting into.

Olney has broken a leg, and a bull has fallen on his arm.

But that's just another day at the office.

"That stuff hurts, but for the most part its just hitting the ground," Olney said, casually. "It doesn't hurt too bad."

He attributes part of that to adrenaline, which drives him. The thrill of the ride keeps him jumping back on that horse, so to speak.

Olney might pass off the injuries, or the injury risk, but there's an inherent life risk that comes with riding a bull until it flings you violently to the ground.

As it goes, if you're gonna rodeo, you're gonna get hurt.

Mike Rich took over as the executive director of Justin Boots Sports Medicine team 3 1/2 years ago. Justin Boots goes to rodeos around the country and cares for the riders of all events.

Rich has seen everything from hangnails to severe impairment to concussions to even death. Three, in fact.

"Three too many," Rich said.

Gary Williams, the general manager of the Tucson Rodeo was a bull rider for 16 years and a rodeo clown for three. Williams, 64, knows better than most the risks of bull riding.

"But, it's addictive," he said. "The adrenaline flow is pretty amazing."

The adrenaline does a good job of masking the injuries that come with the sport.

It takes guts to ride a bull, to risk your life.

And Olney might not wear a helmet, but that doesn't mean he's not scared.

"Anybody who says they're not scared," Williams said, "is stupid."

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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