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Inside the PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals

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Inside the PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals

Silvano Alves aboard Train Wreck in round 1 of the 2012 PBR Built Ford Tough World Championships.

Photo © Wisconsin Messenger
As the chill of fall fills the air, cowboys from around the country descend on Las Vegas, Nevada for the Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough World Finals. This five-day competition pits the best cowboys and the rankest bulls head-to-head, and only the most skilled riders come out on top. PBR events are considered by many to be the most prestigious in the country, and cowboys work day and night to prepare for the major touring events. The PBR Built Ford Tough Series is unique in the rodeo world because, not only do they crown a World Champion cowboy; they also pay homage to the best bucking bull of the entire season.

In The Arena

The Thomas and Mack Center is packed to capacity with cheering crowds, bucking bulls, and brazen cowboys for the duration of the World Finals, and seasons can be made or lost with a single, 8-second ride. Only the best of the best make it to the finals, and each successful ride is a blessing for these determined cowboys. In the center of the arena at every Professional Bull Riders tour event is a large, circular stage that puts participants front and center, with many hamming it up for the spectators. The cowboys enter the arena individually, announced throughout the entire arena amid colorful flashing lights and strategically-placed smoke. It is an opening worthy of applause, and the crowd erupts when their favorite cowboys take the stage. The rodeo clowns, the only buffer between raging bulls and vulnerable cowboys, are also introduced to the crowd, enticing cheers and laughs from the excited fans.

The Bulls

While the cowboys are showing off to the crows, their bovine counterparts are resting quietly behind the chutes. Bulls at the World Finals are the best in the business, and are treated like rodeo royalty. Rodeo bulls are extremely valuable animals and stock contractors go to great lengths to protect their animals, buying the most nutritious food, providing routine veterinary care, and providing their animals with both exercise and mental stimulation to stave off boredom. Stock contractors spend years developing a program with solid, powerful bucking bulls, and take great care and consideration when putting their boys to work. Top-level bulls are often valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and are given the best care at home and on the road.

Ride to the Top

The real fun begins after the cowboys are introduced and the smoke settles to the arena floor. Each cowboy is paired with a bull in a random draw before the event begins, giving every cowboy an equal shot to be crowned World Champion. As the first bulls are loaded into the chutes, the cowboys at the top of the draw gather along the top of the chutes, talking shop and discussing how each bull bucks, spins and jumps. The first cowboy tosses his rope to the gate man, who helps feed the rope under the bull's chest. The cowboy climbs aboard, nods his head and the bull leaps out of the chute. If the rider is lucky, he's 8 seconds away from glory; an unlucky cowboy may be in for a world of hurt. Scoring each ride is a pair of seasoned judges. These skilled men are looking for the best cowboy and bull, and each is awarded a total of 50 points from each judge. Riders are scored on overall form, position on the bull, and spurring action throughout the ride. The bulls are also under close observation, and are scored on enthusiasm, energy, bucking style, jump height and spinning power. The remaining riders mount up in the order of the draw, each one shooting for the stars. The scores are tallied after each ride, and the cowboy with the highest total winnings at the end of the event is crowned the Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough World Champion.

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