Mastering an 1,800-pound bucking bull is risky business, but some cowboys are up to that challenge.
You can see how they operate at the annual IBR Bull Riding Championships at the Carroll County Agriculture Center and Shipley Arena on Saturday, Feb. 23 and again on Saturday, March 2. Doors open at 5 p.m. each night for a 7 p.m. show.
Sonny Williams of J Bar W Ranch formed the International Bull Riders (IBR). Williams grew up in the Union Bridge area, milking cows and attending rodeos with his dad. After riding bulls as a teen, he joined his family in raising rodeo bulls.
In 1997, they began holding rodeos at J Bar W Ranch. Then, in 2005 they held a first bull riding competition at the Carroll County Agriculture Center. Since the inception of the IBR, they’ve sanctioned hundreds of events, paying over $100,000 in prize money and awards.
Williams runs the show and he explained how it works.
Two certified judges score rides for a possible 100 points. Both the bull and the rider are scored — 50 points each. The rider is judged on how well he stays in control. The bulls are scored on how high they buck, changes of directions, extensions and how hard they kick or twist, making them harder to stick to.
“Usually one hand is roped in and the other one is free and kept up for balance,” Williams said. “Riders should not be falling to the side. With their free hand they cannot touch the animal.”
On both nights, a free Little Wranglers Rodeo offers kids a chance to try out lassoing at the roping station or ride a simulated hand-operated bucking bull. There’s also stick horses and barrels for barrel racing.
In addition, kids brave enough to ride a sheep can sign up for mutton busting. There’s a $5 fee to enter. Names will be drawn for eight children to ride, and the top rider wins the $40 pot.
Between bull rides, audiences will be entertained by a rodeo clown. They’ll also see bull-fighter clowns working hard to divert the bulls inside the ring when riders lose their seat.
“You can come every year, but when you are dealing with animals and different riders you will never see the same thing twice,” Williams said. “The danger is what makes it exciting.
“The bulls are not tame animals. They are going to try to hurt the rider. No one wants to see anyone get hurt, but they like to see a wreck!”
Williams encourages folks to arrive early because the bleachers fill up fast. The cost is $20 adults; $10 for 6 to 12; and under age 6 are free. Food and drink will be available for purchase.
For more information, call 410-848-6704 or 301-748-0617
Shipley Arena is located at 706 Agriculture Center Drive in Westminster.