To the Xtreme: Professional cowboys compete in bull riding at livestock show

Tyler Bingham rides a bull named Smokin Joe during the Xtreme Bull Riding competition at the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show on Wednesday, Mar. 13, 2019, in Mercedes. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

MERCEDES — Elliot Jacoby sat on top of a young bull, sweating as it kicked repeatedly inside the metal enclosure. Once the gates opened, he held on as it continued to let out its aggression.

As a competitor at The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Xtreme Bulls competition at the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show, he was competing to win part of the $100,000 total prize money.

The 28-year-old from Fredericksburg, Texas, has been riding bulls for over 15 years, and managed to stay on for about eight seconds, the minimum amount needed to make a score.

“I love doing it,” Jacoby said. “I just grew up around it. I grew up in the rodeo world and I just stayed with it.”

Nearly 40 bull riders from across the country, Mexico, Canada and Australia competed on Wednesday.

Brett Garza, 21, from Riviera, Texas, rode his first bull when he was 8 years old. Before that, he would ride sheep or young calves. He said he picked up the skill from his dad who used to ride bulls professionally, too.

“Bull riding is one of those sports, once it gets in your blood it’s in there forever,” he said.

Garza said staying on the bull isn’t something that comes easy. It takes years of practice, and even then the bull could overpower you, and you have to be prepared for that, he said.

“You don’t really think about, that’s why you practice,” Garza said. “You just work on your form, stay strong stay square. Eventually it’s just muscle memory. They make a move, and you just react with another move.”

Photo Gallery: Extreme Bull Riding at the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show

The reason it’s called Xtreme Bull Riding is because the riders truly run a risk of getting hurt. Garza knows that fact all too well.

“I mean, I’ve been doing it since I was 8,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of people get hurt. I’ve gotten hurt myself, I’ve got a few stitches here and there.”

Gallee Mason, a 31-year-old bull rider from Weiser, Idaho, has been riding professionally for 14 years. Even then, he lasted about two seconds in one round and had the bull ram into the back of his leg while he was on the ground, causing panic in the crowd.

He quickly got up, limping slightly as he walked calmly to the gate. This wasn’t his first rodeo.

“It’s all I ever thought about doing,” Mason said of bull riding. “There’s not much to it, usually. Mainly don’t be an (expletive) and stay in the middle.

“If you ride bulls you’re going to get hit. … Why do it do it? It’s the funnest thing I know to do.”