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Taming the 1,500 pound beast

Times-Mirror File Photo/Lisa Johnson Blaine Whipp, of Boonesboro, Md., gets thrown from the bull on July 31, 2008, at the Loudoun County Fair.
Modern day cowboys will be donning their vests and kicking their spurs for the bull riding competition Aug. 1 and 3 at the Loudoun County Fair.

Bull riding has its origins in the 16th century Mexican bloodsport jaripeo

The bull riding event will be organized by the Triple R Bull Co. of Boonsboro, Md., which has traveled along the eastern seaboard, from Florida to Canada, supplying bulls and a portable arena for International Bull Riders sanctioned events.

Former bull rider and Triple R owner Mark Reed said riding a 1,500 pound beast is a rush like no other.

"The first couple times you do it everything is so fast all you can remember is sitting in the chute, nodding your head, then landing on the ground," Reed said. "After a couple times, things start slowing down and you can think through what's happening."

When a rider is on top of a bucking bull, he must hold on to the bull rope's leather handle with only one hand.

Reed said staying on the bull is not a matter of upper body strength but balance.

"It's like a see saw. If you stay in the middle, you can stay on it easily, but you go to one end or the other, you fall off," Reed said. "That's why it's a smaller guy's sport, most of them in the 5 foot 6 to 5 foot 8 range, because they can balance easier than the taller guys."

Given the likelihood of being thrown off the bull and trampled, safety is a priority. One of the current debates in bull riding circles is whether to wear a helmet or a cowboy hat during the eight seconds.

Reed said while nobody wore helmets when he rode bulls in the early 90s, he welcomes the change.

"I've had my teeth knocked out, a broken jaw, a broken nose, so I definitely welcome anything to make the sport safer," Reed said. "A lot of the younger guys who started riding bulls with helmets don't have a problem, but the older guys have a hard time making the switch."

Contrary to popular belief, the bucking action of the bull is not the reaction of a fearful, frightened animal, but a combination of breeding and training.
Reed said breeding bulls for competition is more akin to thoroughbred horse raising than beef production.

"What makes a good bull is a combination of genetics, build and care," Reed said. "If you have a thoroughbred horse from good stock, it ain't going to perform if you don't take care of it."

Like thoroughbred horses, each bull has name. Reed's bull, Termite, competed in the Built Ford Tough Series, one of the Professional Bull Riders organization's biggest events.

Reed said picking out a bull is a skill that comes with experience.

"You have to have an eye for it and you can tell a muscular bull the same way you can spot people with athletic builds," Reed said. "Ninety times out of 100 they'll fit the build, but every so often there's that one bull that defies what everyone's looking for, being under or overweight."

Reed said most bulls start training when they are 2 years old by bucking off a light, remote controlled dummy mounted to them, then moving up to lightweight men when they are 3 and entering competition at 4 years old.

"Four to 6 is definitely the prime of their career and they can usually keep bucking until they're 7 or 8," Reed said. "By 9 or 10 they're done, but the good ones will last longer and usually end up becoming pretty valuable breeding bulls."

The bull riding competition will showcase 30 riders Aug. 1 and 15 riders Aug. 3 with bull riders coming from as far as North Carolina.

Reed said he hopes to give the residents of Loudoun a good show.

"We got a good announcer coming up and a funny man to tell jokes to the crowd during the slow parts," Reed said. "We're hoping to see somebody break 90 points on Thursday."

Loudoun County Fair schedule of events

The Loudoun County Fair will run from July 29 to Aug. 3, giving the public an opportunity to take in the sights and sounds of livestock and carnival rides.
Sponsored by the Loudoun County 4-H club in partnership with local businesses, the fair gives 4-H members a chance to show off their year-long projects, whether it is raising sheep or sewing a dress.

The Loudoun County Fairgrounds is at 17558 Dry Mill Road, Leesburg.

Cost of a weekly pass is $25 for adults and $10 children ages 6-14, with discount rate passes available at Ketterman's Jewelers in Leesburg and Southern States in Purcellville at $20 for adults and $8 for children. Daily passes are $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-14. Free admission is available for children 15 and under July 31 until 4 p.m. and seniors 62 and over Aug. 1 until 4 p.m. Active duty military personnel will be admitted for free with military I.D all week.

Gates will open at 4 p.m. July 29 and at 9 a.m. for the rest of the week.

Times-Mirror File Photo/Beverly Denny
Loudoun County Fairgoers chase greased pigs during a round of the "pig scramble" in hopes of dragging one to the pig pen and claiming it as a prize July 24, 2011. For those whose parents won't let them take a pig home with them they can opt for a $20 cash prize instead.

Below is a list of evening entertainment and contests. A full schedule can be found at loudouncountyfair.com/schedule.

Carnival: July 29 to Aug. 3.Opens 6 p.m July 29-30 and Aug. 1. Opens 5:30 p.m. Aug. 2. Opens 1 p.m. July 31 and Aug. 3.

Corn on the Cob Eating Contest: July 29 at 6:30 p.m.

Stoney Roberts Demolition Derby: July 29 at 8 p.m.

1st Virginia Mounted Shooting Demonstration: July 30 at 7:30 p.m.

Hay Bale Toss: July 30 at 8:30 p.m.

K9's in Flight Frisbee dog show: July 31 at 5:30 p.m.

Chris Winward country rock concert: July 31 at 7:30 p.m.

Pie eating contest: Aug. 1 at 7 p.m.

Bull Riding: Aug. 1 and 3 at 8 p.m.

Watermelon eating contest: Aug. 2 at 5 p.m.

Livestock auction: Aug. 2 at 6:30 p.m.

Kiss-A-Pig Contest: Aug. 3 at 7:30 p.m.

Open Mic Karaoke: Aug. 3 at 9 p.m.

– Henry Culvyhouse


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