No one but a bull rider knows the variability of eight seconds.

Eight seconds aboard a bucking bull can seem like an eternity, or it can go by like a flash. And when the rider makes his living by riding bulls, those eight seconds are among the most pivotal of his day.


No one but a bull rider knows the variability of eight seconds.
Eight seconds aboard a bucking bull can seem like an eternity, or it can go by like a flash. And when the rider makes his living by riding bulls, those eight seconds are among the most pivotal of his day.
“If I’m riding a bull good, it’s like a dance. Everything is flowing right, and I almost hate to hear the whistle because I’m enjoying the ride,” said Shawnee resident Nathan Tull, a professional bull rider.
Tull is among the competitors at this weekend’s Professional Bull Riders event at Shawnee’s Expo Center. It’s also a key competition for Tull because he could earn enough money to vault himself into the top 45 money-makers for the PBR, a coveted spot that brings televised events and bigger cash prizes.
Making his living as a bull rider isn’t always easy. Tull said he has to live with the uncertainty that a weekend’s ride may bring him a chunk of money, or he may be paying out cash in entry fees and gasoline. Unlike other professional athletes, like baseball or football players, Tull doesn’t get paid unless he wins. But he’s not a man to back down from a goal, and the elite bull riding set is where he’s headed.
“My goal, and I think the goal of every bull rider, is to be in the top 45 in the PBR, the best of the best. It’s a huge accomplishment to get there,” he said.
Riding bulls wasn’t what Tull envisioned for his career when he was young. He spent part of his growing-up years in far southwestern Oklahoma, then his family moved between Edmond and Guthrie. They lived across the street from a stock contractor who had a practice pen. One day, the brother of the girl who lived next door told Tull he was going to climb atop a bull.
“I wanted to impress the girl, so I said, ‘I’ll do it too,’” Tull said. “I went out there and rode and ended up liking it, and I was pretty good at it.”
Tull got involved in high school rodeos, earning top honors while finishing high school at Edmond North. He got married at 18 and quit rodeoing for a while, devoting his time to his two daughters, now 5 and 7. But after he was divorced, bull riding began tugging at him again.
He began competing with the International Professional Rodeo Association, and his first year out, he won Rookie of the Year. The honors kept piling up, culminating last year with being named IPRA World Champion. Then it was time for a bigger goal: the PBR. Tull is now sitting at about No. 63 in the top money-makers, and he lacks about $4,000 or $5,000 to make it into the top 45.
“I’m big on setting goals and focusing on one thing. I’m 28 years old and in top shape, so I need to take advantage of what I’ve got,” Tull said.
Tull said he works out regularly, unless he’s too sore from the previous day’s ride, and tries to eat well. But just as important for riding bulls is his mental outlook, he said. Emotional toughness goes hand-in-hand with core strength and athleticism.
“I really try to be positive. Whenever I’m positive, I don’t stress out about it,” he said. “If I’m low on money and worried about riding the bull, I’m not going to ride any better. I always try to look on the bright side of things.
“It’s such a dangerous sport that you’ve got to learn to block out the fear and focus on the ride. You need self-preservation, but you’ve got to block out everything and trust God that everything will be OK. I believe there’s a reason I’m here. I feel like this is where God wants me to be.”
In the chute before the gate opens, Tull also focuses on the specifics of his ride, such as the position of his free hand. He holds the rope with his left hand, so if the bull begins spinning to the right, it’s a tougher ride, he said. His free arm can’t be too high in the air or his body will lift and his hip will rotate.
Tull also is constantly aware that he’s being watched by younger bull riders, especially since winning IPRA world champion. Many younger men see themselves capturing the same success.
“A lot of kids talk to me about riding and want advice. I try to do my best to be a good example,” Tull said. “When I’ve got eyes on me, I try to encourage them to have a good attitude and conduct myself the way I should.”
Since riding into the spotlight, Tull also has gained some much-needed sponsors, who help him pay entry fees and gas for the thousands of miles he drives every year. His current sponsors are Extreme Sports Medics, Walkin’ M Bull Co., HNH Bull Riding News, USRodeoSupply.com, 4theride.com and Larry Spears.
Tull will ride during Saturday night’s competition at the Expo Center, which starts at 7:30 p.m. From 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, a meet-and-greet autograph session with bull riders will be held at the Holiday Inn Express near I-40.