Tim O’Connell has won three world championships in bareback bronc riding. Last week, he stepped into Dickies Arena at the beginning of this new season to try to claim another.
This was one of the dozens of rodeo events at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, a three-week event that draws over a million people, with the evening bull riding, barrel racing, bucking broncs and calf roping — a major event.
In a black cowboy hat, and red, gold and white chaps and vest, O’Connell settles onto the back of a horse, digs his hand into a rigging made of leather and rawhide, and the gates burst open.
His horse bucks and jumps, all four hooves lifting off the ground. O’Connell holds tight, slapping back against the horse again and again, all the while keeping one hand in the air.
It’s a heart-pounding eight seconds before the buzzer sounds, and O’Connell ends the round with a top score and no injuries. But in rodeo, it’s not really a matter of if you’ll get injured, but when and how badly.