"FORTUNE FAVORS THE BRAVE" is an axiom that applies to bull riding more than any other sport in the world. There are other dangerous sports, but none that match a human competitor with an animal possessing superior physical strength and a spirit to match that of his human rival.
From the stands, bull riding looks like a contest matching brute strength with finesse, but down in the arena, it is more a battle of will and spirit between the bull and rider. Great bulls must have great spirit, and the bull rider must rise to this or be destined to lose. Talent is part of what makes a great bull rider, but he must have mental strength and courage to go with it.
A bull rider's equipment is simple: A rope, and a pair of spurs are the basic necessities. Most bull riders also wear leather chaps, which serve to protect the rider minor scrapes, and also add a little flash to the ride. The vest that most bull riders wear is filled with high density padding to protect the body from hooves and horns. Some riders wear a helmet to guard against head injuries, which are common in the sport.
The bulls are born with most of what they need - a pair of horns, an attitude, a thick hide, and uncommon strength and agility. A flank strap - a length of padded rope - is wrapped around the bull just in front of his flanks. The flank strap is often misunderstood. Its purpose is to entice the bull to kick more. Without it, most bulls would have greater tendency to run or fall. The flank strap serves to regulate their bucking somewhat and cuts down the risk of injury to a bull. If you are familiar with a dog's ticklish spot, then you have an understanding of how a flank strap works. Bulls and horses are notoriously ticklish around the flank area.
Great bulls love to buck. They have personalities just like people. Some are always ornery. Some are friendly and like to be scratched behind the ears. There have been a number of bulls that were tame enough for children to ride around on in the back pens, but when loaded into the chute, seemed to know it was game time and relished the chance to try and throw a cowboy. A great bucking bull could be worth upwards of $50,000, and as such, they live a life of bovine royalty. They receive the best veterinary care, the best feed, the feistiest girlfriends, and for the most part, work a maximum of 16 seconds a week - and that's only if they are feeling well!