Learn How to Ride a 2,000-Pound Bull in the Ring

For $595 you can spend three days at a rodeo camp for adults. But only you can teach yourself to find the bull's center of gravity
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Rodeo School: Where Anyone Can Learn to Ride a Wild Bull

A bull riding student hangs on at a Leffew clinic in Grantville, Pa.

A bull riding student hangs on at a Leffew clinic in Grantville, Pa.

Photographer: Philip Montgomery/Bloomberg Pursuits

For two decades, world champion bull rider Gary Leffew has shared his skills at a private rodeo school near the Los Padres National Forest in California. He also runs traveling seminars for ambitious amateurs, teaching bankers and doctors the timing and technique required to ride a 2,000-pound bull.

“You need to find the bull’s center. To do that, you’ve got to go through your own,” Leffew says. “The best riders almost share a mind with the animal.”

After gauging students’ aptitude and drilling them on barrels that mimic a bull’s jump and kick, he teaches countermoves to maintain balance and a standard straight-arm technique to push the animal forward. Then it’s time to ride. Students get strapped to a steer, one hand secured to its backside with a thickly braided rope. Leffew, 70, shouts cues from the sidelines: Dig in with your spurs, break forward at the waist, lunge over the bull’s shoulders, and run like hell if you fall.

“I rode three bulls on a Saturday, then entered the arena as a bull rider on a Sunday,” says L.A.-based writer Joel Reising. “To a pro that probably doesn’t sound like much, but it goes over big at cocktail parties.”

$595 for a three-day camp, or $200 per day; hotmanrodeogear.org

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