Within the sport of bronco riding there are two categories: saddle broncs and barebacks. Saddle bronc riders have the advantage of putting their legs in stirrups; bareback bronc riders cling to the horse with just one hand. I imagine it must be a very difficult thing to ride a bucking bronco without the benefit of a saddle.
Photographing the saddle bronc riders gave me classic results – a cowboy on a fully extended horse (usually with his hat still on) with one hand high in the air. But when I photographed the bareback riders, the results were much more uncomfortable.
This guy in particular was my favorite. He lost his hat right out of the gate, which meant that I got a good shot at his face. And his face is what makes the photo. His face tells me that there’s nothing stylish about bareback bronco riding. You hang on for your life with the one hand while the rest of your limbs flail about and the back of your head slams into the horse’s rear end with each ferocious buck.
His face tells me that as a bareback rider you don’t beat the horse, you survive the horse. And if you survive the horse with a minimum amount of awkwardness, you get the high score and win the money.
I’m tempted to make fun of this cowboy for his facial expressions, but then I remember why he’s making them and I shut my mouth. Plus, who cares what faces you make as long as you hang in there, which this cowboy did – the full eight seconds.