The journey to complete an 8-second ride atop a bull can be brutal and cruel.
Just ask the cowboys who participated in the Professional Bull Riding Touring Pro Division on Thursday — the opening day of the Clovis Rodeo.
Over and over, cowboys were tossed in the air, flung around like a rag doll.
One had a bull stomp right on his face.
Another rider tweaked an elbow after his hand got stuck on the bull and the animal seemed determined to snap the rider’s arm.
And then there’s the wild dismounts, like the one that caused a cowboy to land on his jaw.
“It can be scary,” said Jay Miller, a PBR rider from South Carolina.
Yet for those who manage to stay on for the full 8 seconds, the thrill can be a rush like no other.
It proved quite lucrative, too, for Texas native Guthrie Long after he finished in first place and earned more than $12,000 in prize money.
Long recorded the second-best score during the long round with 87 points, then notched 87.5 more during the short round to seize the victory.
“It felt so great,” said Long of Odessa. “That’s what I’ve been needing to pick myself up. I’ve been in a little slump there.
“Looks like it was worth coming.”
Long held off Michael Lee of Decatur, Texas, who was the only other cowboy to complete both rides on the night. Lee kicked off the short round of 10 bull riders with a score of 88.
Lee, however, was done in by a low-scoring first round that generated 78 points. Lee considered his early score so low that he didn’t watch the remainder of the second round, even though he was in line for the win after seven straight bull riders were bucked off in the final round.
That is, until Long mounted up.
Long’s outing surprised even him. The 27-year-old had earned just $8,797.90 this year entering the Clovis Rodeo.
The field was stacked with much more polished riders, like Matt Triplett, ranked No. 2 in the world with earnings of $139,22.67, and 10-year pro Shane Proctor, who’s racked up $46,836.67 on the year.
The world’s No. 1 rider was absent, though, with Joao Ricardo Vieira withdrawing earlier in the day because of an unspecified injury.
Long said he didn’t pay attention to who else was competing.
Fatigue allowed him only enough energy to focus on his ride.
Rather than fly to events as most high-level bull riders do, Long drove 20 hours over two days from Texas. By the time he got into town, there were just two hours left before the rodeo kicked off.
Long made that drive solo.
“I didn’t have nobody to go with,” Long said. “That was a long drive by myself. It wasn’t much fun.”
Once Long arrived at the Clovis Rodeo Grounds, he immediately went to work stretching his legs to get loose.
He didn’t do much advance scouting about the bull he had drawn, just a quick conversion with a fellow cowboy who tried to ride it before.
And then he was off.
“I was tired when I got here,” Long said. “Once I got on that bull, I came alive.”
Long was told his bull would likely turn right out of the chute. This time, it turned left.
No worries, as Long kept his balance while holding on with his left hand. Midway through the ride, he readjusted again as the bull bucked.
Only Lachlan Richardson scored higher than Long in the first round, recording 88 points.
The second round seemed more about survival, staying on as all but those top two riders fell off.
“I haven’t made nothing of my career yet,” Long said. “I won some small ones, but this is as big as it’s been for me.”