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Eight Seconds to Glory - Bull Riding


Eight seconds. To the average person that goes by in a flash. However, for cowboys sitting atop a 1,700- pound bull - when the bucking chute opens it's another story. Referred to as "the toughest sport on dirt," professional bull riding is America's original "extreme sport."

Jeff Robinson on the cover of The American Bucking BullWhile the silver buckles and athletic accolades are bestowed upon the men who have the courage to get on these bulls, the bulls themselves are often an underappreciated aspect of the sport. Southern States customer Jeff Robinson of Robinson Bulls gives us a glimpse at what life is like for a bull on the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) circuit and what it's like to be a stock contractor for the PBR.

As 2010 PBR Stock Contractor of the Year, Robinson knows what it takes to have bulls at the top of their game. So what is a stock contractor? They are the individuals and companies that own bulls and lease them for use on the PBR tour. Rather than the PBR owning the bulls used for their events, they rely on these contractors to provide the stock, in this case bucking bulls, for each event. Without the contractors there would just be a herd of cowboys standing in the middle of the arena.

A typical PBR event can have anywhere from eight to 15 different stock contractors each bringing approximately seven or eight bulls to the event. These contractors can be chosen based on their proximity to the event, but most importantly they are chosen based on the quality of their bulls.

If you have ever watched the PBR, chances are good that you have seen some of Robinson's bulls in action. According to the PBR, "He has one of the deepest pens in PBR history, including some of the rankest bulls on the Built Ford Tough Series, like Voodoo Child, Chicken on a Chain, I'm a Gangster (aka Uncle Buck) and Super Duty (aka Major Payne). One look at the PBR Bull Standings and you can see Robinson's bulls are the best of the best."

Nestled between the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains, Robinson Bucking Bulls based in Mars Hill, NC, is more than a family run business; it's a way of life for the Robinson clan. "Growing up I was always around bulls, so I don't know of a time I didn't have an interest in them," says Robinson. For the family, raising bulls is something they do from the moment they get up to when they tuck the kids into bed at night. Luckily Robinson and his wife Ann have six children to help with the daily chores. Robinson remarks, "We're like the Brady Bunch, I had two kids, my wife had two kids, and together we have two kids."

This modern day Brady Bunch has its work cut out for it. They have plenty of bonding time as they work with the bulls, feed and water the bulls, and exercise the bulls daily. Robinson Bucking Bulls currently has 500 bulls, so the chores are never ending.

Robinson and his crew take pride in raising some of the best bulls in the business. This is evident when you look at the PBR rankings. At any given time, Robinson Bulls will have several bulls in the top 20. Just as the cowboy is scored on his bull ride performance, the bull is score on each ride. However unlike the cowboy, the bull receives a score whether or not the cowboy lasts the often elusive eight seconds. Like the cowboy, bulls can earn a max of 25 points each time they leave the chute. The closer to 25 the bull scores, the higher their ranking will be.

A stock contractor, Jeff Robinson supplies bulls for Professional Bull Riding circuit events.On the Built Ford Tough Series, where you can see many of Robinson's bulls, each event has five judges. One judge is responsible for reviewing replays when a contestant challenges a ruling while the other four are busy scoring the rider and bull. The maximum of 25 points per bull is determined by their scores in the following categories, each of which has one to five points available: buck, kick, spin, intensity and degree of difficulty.

For the purposes of judging, bucking refers to how high the bull can get his front feet off the ground. Along with height, the judges look at how many times the bull jumped up and how much of the arena he covered during his trip. On the other end, judges score the kick in terms of how high and how hard the bull kicks. These two items are often seen almost simultaneously as the bull goes from buck to kick to buck.

Spin is also referred to as the speed element. This is one of the most difficult categories for a judge to assess if the bull is ridden for less than eight seconds. In that case the judges must assume that the bull would have continued to spin at the same rate for the rest of his ride. Judges look at how fast the bull spins when he gets up to buck and kick. The fewer jumps and kicks it takes to make a rotation, the higher the score.

The next two categories are used to separate similarly skilled bulls. Intensity simply rates how much try the bull is putting into his trip. Is he just going through the motions or giving it 110 percent?

If a bull has gotten high scores for buck, kick and spin he most likely will get high marks on degree of difficulty as he has done everything "right" throughout the ride. The judges look at the entire trip and rate how hard the bull is to ride.

When breeding and buying into his herd Robinson looks for all the judged qualities and then some. "First and foremost, I look for a bull with superior athletic ability," explains Robinson. "You have to have a bull that loves to buck." These traits along with speed and agility make Robinson's bulls winners.

The most notable bull in Robinson's string is Chicken on a Chain. The bull with the unusual name is a legend on the PBR tour. One of the biggest bulls on the circuit, both in attitude and size, his athleticism and power shows through during each ride. The 2007 PBR World Champion Bucking Bull has such a fan following that he has his own Facebook, MySpace and Twitter accounts.

Chicken is one of a handful of bulls that Robinson owns with celebrity partners. Chicken is a joint venture between Robinson, Tedesco Buckin' Bulls and Blue Collar Comedy Tour comedian Larry the Cable Guy. A self proclaimed "Hillbilly," Robinson is a genius when it comes to marketing his bulls which is evident through their social media accounts and sponsorships.

When asked how he formed his partnership with Larry the Cable guy, the ever modest Robinson replied, "He just called me one day and said he was interested in the bulls and it just went from there." In addition to Chicken, Larry is also a partial owner of Git-R-Done and Booger Butt. A longtime supporter of the PBR, the partnership between Robinson Bulls and Larry the Cable Guy has put an even larger spotlight on some of Robinson's better known bulls.

Robinson also owns bulls with two time Kentucky Derby winning trainer Carl Nafzger. This partnership brings Nafzger back to his bull riding roots as he had much success in the Professional Bull Riding arena prior to training Unbridled and Street Sense to their Derby wins.

Not only does Robinson have partnerships with individuals, but he has sold naming rights of his bulls to Ford. As the title sponsor of the Built Ford Tough Series, Ford has a huge interest in getting as much brand recognition as possible. Case in point they bought the naming rights to Super Duty (formerly Major Payne) and most recently Ford's F-150 Raptor (formerly Power Line).

Jeff Robinson's bulls are well know throughout the PBR circuit.With over 100 million viewers tuning in to PBR from the comfort of their homes, PBR has become a big business. With approximately 500 hours of prime time programming annually PBR ranks among the most prolific sports on air. It only makes sense for companies to want to partner with bulls the caliber of Robinson's herd.

Though nationally recognizable, to Robinson the bulls are family. "All these animals, the Chickens, the Voodoos, the Major Paynes all become part of our family and we talk about our bulls like we do our kids. These bulls are in our lives every day," says Robinson. "But the bottom line is this is how we make our living so it would be foolish if we didn't give them the best quality of care each day."

To ensure that his bulls get the best care each day, Robinson worked with the Asheville (NC) Southern States to develop two bucking bull rations. For the past ten years Robinson has been looking into enhancing his nutrition and exercise programs. Through working with Southern States' nutritionists Robinson was able to develop two bucking bull feed rations; Bucking Bull Grower and Bucking Bull Performance. Bucking Bull Grower is designed for growing/developing young bulls and holding condition on mature bulls. The Performance ration is for preparing bulls for a "road trip" and performing.

When developing these two rations Southern States and Robinson looked at how the horse industry has created feeds to deal with the stress associated with competing both in the show ring and on the racetrack. We then used that research and added a number of added nutrients not normally added to bovine feeds, such as selenium yeast, Diamond V XP and Bio-Mos. The new formulas also get energy from carbohydrates rather than solely relying on fat.

Robinson believes that by changing his nutrition and exercise program he will be able to increase each bull's bucking years. "Instead of these bulls lasting a couple of years we are hoping to get them to last four to five years," explains Robinson. "That's my goal." At Southern States we are here to help Robinson meet that goal. It's our responsibility to help develop bulls that can physically express their genetic ability while keeping them physically sound and minimizing intestinal upset for a longer productive career.

As Robinson treats his bulls like part of the family he would like to address the common myth that bucking bulls aren't treated humanely. "I wish anybody that was really concerned with animal welfare could really spend a day or week in the life of a bull on the PBR, because it's probably the best life a bull could have," notes Robinson. As these bulls are athletes they really have to be treated as such.

To this end PBR has taken the position that there are great athletes in every eight second ride, therefore the bulls are treated with as much respect as the human athletes who ride them. As these animals are truly gifted they are given the best care imaginable by both the stock contractors and PBR staff.

Next time you are flipping through the channels and see PBR is on take a minute to watch Robinson's bulls in action. Whether or not the rider makes it eight seconds it's sure to be a wild ride. For more information about Robinson Bulls go to www.robinsonbulls.com.


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