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Professional bull riders compete at Mountains Center
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Whatever you do, don’t call it a rodeo. This is straight-up bull riding

Seventy-five hunky bull riders, along with 26 raging bulls, will take over the Georgia Mountains Center this weekend in the Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association’s competition. The event, held Friday through Sunday, will pit man against bull for a shot at thousands of dollars in prize money.

Each day brings a separate competition, said promoter Bryan White, with riders and bulls getting scored based on eight-second rides.

Rick Wagner, 27, who has been riding bulls for 10 years, said he enjoys competing at the Mountains Center because the indoor atmosphere makes it seem like a Professional Bull riding event. While he’s been out of commission for a few months due to a broken leg, he said he’s won the Gainesville competition in the past and hopes to get back on a bull in the next few weeks.

"The hardest part is getting the spur on it," he said of his lower leg cast, which has been keeping him from continuing his streak as one of the largest money makers on the SEBRA circuit. He said he hopes to be competing in the finals on Feb. 8 and 9 in Raleigh, however, even with a cast.

"They’re making one specially for me. I talked them into it," he said. "I’ve been in a cast since October — it’s just taking longer to heal because I’ve broken it four times."

White, who has also been a rodeo clown for 33 years, said there are two judges who give out points based on the difficulty of the bull and the rider’s level of control — and, despite all that bucking, there is control involved.

Each rider can accumulate a maximum of 100 points per ride — 25 points from the bull and 25 points for himself, given by each judge, White said.

"So the harder the bull is to ride, the more points the rider gets," he explained. "The more the bull turns — and that’s called turning back — and the more the bull spins and the faster he kicks, the more points he’s going to get.

"So, the harder he is to ride, the more points the bull will score and the more points the rider gets. So if a bull just comes out and jumps in the air, he’s not going to get a lot of points."

Riders stay on for eight seconds and no more. A horn sounds when it’s time to bail off the bull.

"He’s got a pull rope and he rides with one hand. And if he touches the bull with his loose hand, he’s disqualified," White said. "He has to be in control of the ride. If he’s just hanging on and flopping around, he’s not going to get very many points."

Wayne White, a rider from Milner with 15 years of experience, said sometimes that eight seconds can seem like an eternity. It all depends on how well the ride is going.

"If you’re in real good shape and riding real good, it goes by pretty smoothly. But if you’re out of shape instead of riding right, when all else fails, don’t let go," he said. "Then, it can seem like forever."

White will be competing Saturday and Sunday and he is coming into town to win. And even though he makes it sound easy, it’s not always like that, he said.

"I’ve been riding bulls a long time; you just never know," he said. "A bull’s liable to do anything — there’s no set pattern."

The men of bull riding

Wayne White

Hometown: Milner

Age: 32

About Wayne: Growing up on a farm, Wayne had cousins who were into bull riding, and that’s where he learned it. He’s been riding for 15 years and has a farm where he teaches clinics about twice a month.

Advice for beginning riders: Practice, and keep at it. "Don’t ever quit."

Rick Wagner

Hometown: Rockwell, N.C.

Age: 27

About Rick: He said he’s always wanted to ride bulls, and despite his parents’ protests, went and did it anyway. "I just got on my daddy’s cows out there in the pasture. Been stuck to it ever since."

Advice for beginning riders: Try to reach your dreams, no matter what.

Ryan Radford

Home: Asheville, N.C.

Age: 27

About Ryan: His career in bull riding began when a friend took him to watch an amateur event. Ryan ended up trying it himself and has never looked back. When not rodeoing, Ryan enjoys horseback riding.

Advice for beginning riders: "Don’t make bull riding a hobby... If you want a hobby go fishing..."

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