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Bull rider's life is full of twists

BROOKSVILLE — Eight seconds doesn't seem like a long time. But for P.K. Fischer, attempting to reach that brief milestone while atop a 2,000-pound bull can make for one heck of a thrill ride.

It's a bone-jarring stunt punctuated by the constant uncertainty of whether the rider will even be able to walk away when it's over.

Fischer insists he isn't crazy. Rather, he believes that after 14 years he's never been better at bull riding. And he doesn't foresee his retirement for a long time.

"As long as I'm physically able and it's still exciting to me I'm going to keep riding," the 27-year-old Fischer said. "I like the action."

The cowboy from Trenton, the county seat of Gilchrist County west of Gainesville, expects to see plenty of action when he shows up Friday at the Hernando County Fair and Youth Livestock Show's "Bulls and Barrels" event.

For Fischer, who has ridden bulls since he was 13, few things in life can compare to the adrenaline rush one gets from riding an ornery beast capable of stomping a man into the dirt. He's been there many times himself and was once forced to sit out a year and a half after a fall tore up most of the ligaments in his left knee.

At 5 feet 11 inches and weighing just 145 pounds, Fischer describes himself as a "runt" who is smaller than most of his fellow competitors. However, he insists that bull riding has less to do with brawn than brains. A smart rider, he says, is the guy who can anticipate an animal's moves and adjust his body before the bull can throw him off.

"It's a mental game all the way," Fischer said. "Bulls are smart. They'll keep shifting their weight back and forth until they think they've got you confused. Sometimes it's all you can do to hold on."

Fischer says that success in the sport pretty much depends on what the cowboy can show style-wise during the ride. As with bareback riding and saddle bronc, bull riders ride with one hand and cannot touch their bull or themselves with the free hand. Doing so results in no score.

A panel of two judges awards between one and 25 points for the cowboy's performance and up to 25 points for the animal's performance, with 100 points considered a perfect ride.

Fischer's best individual performance came in 2006 at a rodeo in Moultrie. Ga. His best payday was later that year at a rodeo in Williston in Levy County and southwest of Gainesville. He earned $3,000 in prize money.

"It's a good business when you're successful," he said. "But you also have to be prepared to lose. It happens a lot."

Fischer has earned several titles, including the World Wide Rodeo Association's 2005 bull rider of the year; he was a Southern Pro Bull Rider Association finalist in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

In addition to riding bulls, he occasionally serves in the ranks of the rodeo bullfighters, the men who help draw the bull's attention to enable cowboys to escape after their ride is over.

A heavy equipment operator by day, most weekends find Fischer on the road to rodeos all over the Southeast. The hardest part of bull riding, he says, is the time it takes away from being with his young family.

"I'm fortunate in that they understand how much it means to me,'' Fischer said. "They know that giving it up would take a lot out of me."

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1435.

Bull rider's life is full of twists 04/05/08 [Last modified: Saturday, April 5, 2008 12:29pm]
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