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Bull riding competition at Forum promises lots of thrills and spills

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Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2014 at 10:59 AM

Alabama native Josh Carlisle has been riding bulls since he was 13.

He’s suffered a broken foot and hand, and cracked a few ribs.

“Nothing too serious enough that I don’t want to or can’t do it anymore,” says Carlisle, 18, of Birmingham, Ala., “The rush I get (from riding the bull) and the way the crowd reacts; there’s just nothing else like it.”

Saturday, Carlisle will be one of more than 30 bull riders who will climb onto the backs of an ornery 2,000-plus-pound bull hoping for more thrills than spills at the PBR Touring Pro Division’s “Chicken on a Chain” classic at the Forum. More than $10,000 in prize money is on the line.

And the bull riding competition will be fierce as the cowboys compete for the top two spots.

“(The Tampa Touring Pro Division) is a major step for the professional bull riders,” said Jerome Robinson, PBR producer. “The top two riders will be sent to Fresno (Calif.) to compete in the ‘Built Ford Tough Series’ on March 28-29.” That competition brings together the top 35 bull riders in the world.

According to PBR rules, the bigger and meaner the bull, the higher the riders’ scores will be.

Half of the possible 100 points for each eight-second ride are determined by the bull’s performance.

That score is based on the animal’s speed and power, as well as the number of leg kicks and body rolls it performs once exiting the starting gates, called a chute. So it’s in the rider’s best interest — at least for competitive purposes — to be on top of the meanest, most active bull possible.

“It’s really about the bull you get on,” Carlisle said. “You’re judged by how well you match a bull’s move and how well you maintain control of the ride.”

Carlisle recalls a recent ride in his hometown where he wasn’t able to control the ride. After a few seconds, the ticked off beast he was riding slammed him to the ground.

“He slung me into the gate after five seconds,” he recalls. “I was OK, but I had to play catch up after that.”

Carlisle said he’s thrilled to be able to make a living at what he loves. Although he’s only 18 and has been bull riding a short time, he knows a cowboy’s career isn’t a long one.

“I’d like to retire at 35,” he adds. “That’s about the average age. Once you start getting old, it’s not a good idea to keep riding bulls.”

On Saturday, Carlisle will do what he does to prepare for every ride: He’ll stretch, say a prayer and hope for the best.

“They have a mind of their own,” he said about bulls. “They just want to get you off their backs, and we want to stay on ’em.”

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