The saying goes that riding a bucking bull for eight seconds feels like an eternity to most people.
But to 17-year-old rodeo star, Bradie Gray it ”feels like eight minutes”.
He has been so successful at staying put for the requisite eight seconds that he recently won a lucrative four-year rodeo scholarship to Odessa College, Texas.
The fourth generation bull rider from Tamworth has already turned down two scholarships from other colleges in Texas and California, whose spotters saw him compete and win in the US high school championships.
”They love the Aussie kids because they’re a bit tougher than theirs,” Bradie’s father, Mick, a former rodeo protection clown and Australian champion, said.
The Grays are rodeo royalty.
Mick and Bradie have won 16 titles in the Australian Bushmen’s Campdraft & Rodeo Association (ABCRA) hall of fame. Bradie’s two older sisters are also champions.
The winner of six Australian junior bull riding titles, Bradie has been competing this week in the young guns rodeo at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. When he gets on a bull, he never knows what he will get.
”You hope for the best, hope you do a good one and hang on,” Bradie said.
While the prizes for bull riding in Australia are modest – a buckle or some boots, Bradie said – the US grand championship for professional riders carries a $1 million prize.
For the young riders at the show, there is little chance of making a living from rodeo in Australia. But Forbes calls bull riding America’s fastest growing sport in the world. In 2013, the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) association in the US handed out $9 million to riders and $2 million to the owners of the bulls, the publication said.
Another 10 young Australian men, aged 20 to 25, are already competing on the PBR circuit in the US, and others are riding on the rodeo circuit.
Another young horseman at the Easter Show, Brent Parkison, 16, said he was considering whether to head to the US to pursue a career in roping. His younger brother, Luke, only 11, has already won the under-18s bull riding championship and his mother said it was likely he would move to the US.
Competing before the crowds at the Easter Show had its ups and downs, said Brent, who is from Denman in the Upper Hunter.
”The crowd will put pressure on you when you go to rope,” he said. ”So many people are there that you try to impress them, but sometimes when you stuff up, it sucks.”
The best moment was the first night when his team won the breakaway (roping) team contest.
The worst? ”That would be last night, when I missed.”Types of rodeo
Bull riding: The most popular, and the most dangerous. Rider must stay on for eight seconds – the most dangerous eight seconds of any sports – before receiving any points. Roping: Takes the most technical experience. Rope the calf in the quickest time. Saddle bronc riding: The more the horse bucks, the more points the riders win … provided they stay on for eight seconds. Barrel racing: Young horsewomen compete to go around barrels in a clover leaf pattern in the fastest time without knocking the drums. Steer wrestling: Riders have to jump from the horse onto a steer, and throw the steer to the ground in the fastest time.
Source: Australian Bushmen’s Campdraft & Rodeo Association (ABCRA)