Western wear heats up every few seasons, but boots, buckles and barrel-chested bravado will all be on display this weekend at the Professional Bull Riders Invitational at Madison Square Garden, where elite riders start the new season of the Built Ford Tough Series.
One top rider, cowboy and “The Amazing Race” alum Cord McCoy, from tiny Tupelo, Okla., said he was excited to be back in the Big Apple for the third time.
“I’ve never seen so many people,” said McCoy, who is sponsored by equestrian footwear and apparel company Ariat. “I graduated high school with 13 kids.”
But don’t be fooled by his small-town demeanor. When the buzzer sounds, McCoy and 39 other riders will test their toughness and technique mounted on 1,800 pounds of bull.
Hours before the first ride, McCoy spoke with Footwear News about the sport’s rising popularity.
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1. What’s the most important thing New York’s big city crowd needs to understand about bull riding?
CM: The awesome thing about bull riding is it’s self-explanatory. You can see the danger, you can feel the intensity of the bull riding. You don’t need to know the technical rules or where the sport came from. It doesn’t take much to figure out. It’s eight seconds, one hand, stay on top and get a score. And the best of the best are right here in the Big Apple.
2. Some riders wear classic cowboy hats, others hockey helmets. Do cowboys debate style versus protection?
CM: When I started only five of us wore protective helmets, and that was because we had serious head injuries before. For the next generation, it will be mandatory to ride. When I get up in the morning, I put on my hat and go feed and do everything else on the ranch. But when I am competing in bull riding, I wear a helmet. When we go out there, we don’t have to tell anybody we’re cowboys by wearing a helmet or a hat. It’s because of what we do that makes us cowboys.
3. Mechanical bull riding is a hot commodity at some bars. Aside from not getting gored, how close is it to the real deal?
CM: If you’re training, it’s a good start. My mom and dad had a bucking machine in the front yard when I was growing up. There’s a similarity in that you can learn to a certain level, but you can tell your buddy when to turn the mechanical bull off and on. It stays still. But an animal with loose hind legs and hard breathing that doesn’t want you up there can knock you out while standing in the chute.