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No Bull … Cowgirl Likes Challenge

Barbara Ann Dush
Fullerton, Neb.
Alyssa sports her gear, including her dusty pink chaps designed with a cross and her initials and made especially for this cowgirl as a birthday gift from her parents.

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Tuff-N-Nuff rider Alyssa Hambleton is a 14-year-old petite package of fearlessness whose favorite sport is riding bulls at rodeos.

“It’s not every mother’s dream to have her daughter ride bulls,” her mother Kathy Hambleton says of the dangerous sport, “but she likes it so we’ll support her. She’s had a great summer with it and keeps getting better.”

Alyssa’s 11-year-old brother Cody is the reason she is involved in riding. Cody heard about a bull riding practice in Genoa, Neb., and wanted to try out. Alyssa went along mainly to support her brother, and tried it for herself. “He didn’t like it and I did,” she said with a wide grin, “and that’s how it got started.”

The siblings both got stepped on at their first try. Yet, despite the fact that the bull tore a wide gash in Alyssa’s jeans after stepping on her, she pursued the vigorous sport.

That was less than a year ago.

Today, the teen finished the TMRA (Tuff-N-Nuff Miniature Rodeo Association) series competition only a half point away from qualifying for the world series.

AFTER DECIDING TO pursue bull riding, Alyssa attended a two-day bull riding school in Fort Dodge, Iowa, last December. She learned the correct position for her feet, how to use her spurs, determined which hand she wanted to ride with, and the basics of how to stay on a 1,500 pound bucking bull for eight seconds – the amount of time a bull rider must stay aboard to receive a score during competition.

“You basically sit on your hand,” Alyssa said of the riding position. “You sit up really tall, keep your chin down and your eyes on the bull’s spine. When he kicks up with his back legs you lean back and when he kicks with his front legs you lean forward, and concentrating while you’re doing all this. It’s tense, but it’s really fun.”

The equipment necessary for the ride includes a helmet, mouth guard, vest, chaps, a protective glove, boots and spurs. Completing the list is a braided bull rope made of polypropylene, grass or some combination. A handle is braided into the center of the rope and is usually stiffened with leather with one side tied in an adjustable knot that can be changed for the size of the bull. The other side of the rope is a flat braid and is usually coated with rosin to keep it from sliding through the rider’s hand.

“You can’t do a suicide wrap or a pinkie tuck wrap, you have to do the original wrap,” Alyssa said of the rope rules. “And you have to be under 135 pounds with all your gear on.

“You also get to know the bulls,” she adds, “as each bull has a specific strength, age and agility. You know how they buck and you study your bull when you’re waiting for your turn and when you’re pulling your rope.”

The rider cannot touch the bull, the rope, or themselves with their free arm. Doing so results in disqualification of points.

Low Rider, whose owner is Brian Turpitt of Genoa, Neb., is Alyssa’s favorite bull. She’s also ridden Smackdown, Diamond Slip Knot, Red Heat and Spiderman, to mention a few, and No Fun – “and he wasn’t any fun,” she said, laughing.

Despite the safety of the gear, riding has resulted in pulled muscles in Alyssa’s ribs, a cracked humerus bone in her upper arm, and severe tissue damage in her leg after being stepped on.

BULL RIDING REQUIRES balance, flexibility, coordination and courage; and this teen has all four.

Alyssa has been riding once or twice a month in the Tuff-N-Nuff Miniature Rodeo Association’s series for nearly a year. She rides in the Senior Mini Bulls division for ages 11-14 at events in Nebraska and Iowa.

For points to be awarded, the rider must stay mounted for a minimum of eight seconds, and is only scored for their actions during those eight seconds. Since Alyssa began riding, she has ridden the full eight seconds a half dozen times. She is ranked number 16 out of 29, only a half point from the top 15 to qualify for the world series which will be held in Lincoln in November. Winnings are prize money, a belt buckle or trophy.

When she turns 15, Alyssa will have to move to high school rodeo to compete. She has yet to determine if she will go on. Despite parents Kent and Kathy Hambleton being fully supportive, they are also leery of the danger of the higher level of competition.

But bull riding doesn’t shake Alyssa’s confidence.

“It gives you something to do, like a hobby,” she said. “You feel relaxed. Sometimes it feels tense, but it just relaxes me from everything. It’s really enjoyable.”

Tuff-N-Nuff rider Alyssa Hambleton is a 14-year-old petite package of fearlessness whose favorite sport is riding bulls at rodeos.

“It’s not every mother’s dream to have her daughter ride bulls,” her mother Kathy Hambleton says of the dangerous sport, “but she likes it so we’ll support her. She’s had a great summer with it and keeps getting better.”

Alyssa’s 11-year-old brother Cody is the reason she is involved in riding. Cody heard about a bull riding practice in Genoa, Neb., and wanted to try out. Alyssa went along mainly to support her brother, and tried it for herself. “He didn’t like it and I did,” she said with a wide grin, “and that’s how it got started.”

The siblings both got stepped on at their first try. Yet, despite the fact that the bull tore a wide gash in Alyssa’s jeans after stepping on her, she pursued the vigorous sport.

That was less than a year ago.

Today, the teen finished the TMRA (Tuff-N-Nuff Miniature Rodeo Association) series competition only a half point away from qualifying for the world series.

AFTER DECIDING TO pursue bull riding, Alyssa attended a two-day bull riding school in Fort Dodge, Iowa, last December. She learned the correct position for her feet, how to use her spurs, determined which hand she wanted to ride with, and the basics of how to stay on a 1,500 pound bucking bull for eight seconds – the amount of time a bull rider must stay aboard to receive a score during competition.

“You basically sit on your hand,” Alyssa said of the riding position. “You sit up really tall, keep your chin down and your eyes on the bull’s spine. When he kicks up with his back legs you lean back and when he kicks with his front legs you lean forward, and concentrating while you’re doing all this. It’s tense, but it’s really fun.”

The equipment necessary for the ride includes a helmet, mouth guard, vest, chaps, a protective glove, boots and spurs. Completing the list is a braided bull rope made of polypropylene, grass or some combination. A handle is braided into the center of the rope and is usually stiffened with leather with one side tied in an adjustable knot that can be changed for the size of the bull. The other side of the rope is a flat braid and is usually coated with rosin to keep it from sliding through the rider’s hand.

“You can’t do a suicide wrap or a pinkie tuck wrap, you have to do the original wrap,” Alyssa said of the rope rules. “And you have to be under 135 pounds with all your gear on.

“You also get to know the bulls,” she adds, “as each bull has a specific strength, age and agility. You know how they buck and you study your bull when you’re waiting for your turn and when you’re pulling your rope.”

The rider cannot touch the bull, the rope, or themselves with their free arm. Doing so results in disqualification of points.

Low Rider, whose owner is Brian Turpitt of Genoa, Neb., is Alyssa’s favorite bull. She’s also ridden Smackdown, Diamond Slip Knot, Red Heat and Spiderman, to mention a few, and No Fun – “and he wasn’t any fun,” she said, laughing.

Despite the safety of the gear, riding has resulted in pulled muscles in Alyssa’s ribs, a cracked humerus bone in her upper arm, and severe tissue damage in her leg after being stepped on.

BULL RIDING REQUIRES balance, flexibility, coordination and courage; and this teen has all four.

Alyssa has been riding once or twice a month in the Tuff-N-Nuff Miniature Rodeo Association’s series for nearly a year. She rides in the Senior Mini Bulls division for ages 11-14 at events in Nebraska and Iowa.

For points to be awarded, the rider must stay mounted for a minimum of eight seconds, and is only scored for their actions during those eight seconds. Since Alyssa began riding, she has ridden the full eight seconds a half dozen times. She is ranked number 16 out of 29, only a half point from the top 15 to qualify for the world series which will be held in Lincoln in November. Winnings are prize money, a belt buckle or trophy.

When she turns 15, Alyssa will have to move to high school rodeo to compete. She has yet to determine if she will go on. Despite parents Kent and Kathy Hambleton being fully supportive, they are also leery of the danger of the higher level of competition.

But bull riding doesn’t shake Alyssa’s confidence.

“It gives you something to do, like a hobby,” she said. “You feel relaxed. Sometimes it feels tense, but it just relaxes me from everything. It’s really enjoyable.”

Tuff-N-Nuff rider Alyssa Hambleton is a 14-year-old petite package of fearlessness whose favorite sport is riding bulls at rodeos.

“It’s not every mother’s dream to have her daughter ride bulls,” her mother Kathy Hambleton says of the dangerous sport, “but she likes it so we’ll support her. She’s had a great summer with it and keeps getting better.”

Alyssa’s 11-year-old brother Cody is the reason she is involved in riding. Cody heard about a bull riding practice in Genoa, Neb., and wanted to try out. Alyssa went along mainly to support her brother, and tried it for herself. “He didn’t like it and I did,” she said with a wide grin, “and that’s how it got started.”

The siblings both got stepped on at their first try. Yet, despite the fact that the bull tore a wide gash in Alyssa’s jeans after stepping on her, she pursued the vigorous sport.

That was less than a year ago.

Today, the teen finished the TMRA (Tuff-N-Nuff Miniature Rodeo Association) series competition only a half point away from qualifying for the world series.

AFTER DECIDING TO pursue bull riding, Alyssa attended a two-day bull riding school in Fort Dodge, Iowa, last December. She learned the correct position for her feet, how to use her spurs, determined which hand she wanted to ride with, and the basics of how to stay on a 1,500 pound bucking bull for eight seconds – the amount of time a bull rider must stay aboard to receive a score during competition.

“You basically sit on your hand,” Alyssa said of the riding position. “You sit up really tall, keep your chin down and your eyes on the bull’s spine. When he kicks up with his back legs you lean back and when he kicks with his front legs you lean forward, and concentrating while you’re doing all this. It’s tense, but it’s really fun.”

The equipment necessary for the ride includes a helmet, mouth guard, vest, chaps, a protective glove, boots and spurs. Completing the list is a braided bull rope made of polypropylene, grass or some combination. A handle is braided into the center of the rope and is usually stiffened with leather with one side tied in an adjustable knot that can be changed for the size of the bull. The other side of the rope is a flat braid and is usually coated with rosin to keep it from sliding through the rider’s hand.

“You can’t do a suicide wrap or a pinkie tuck wrap, you have to do the original wrap,” Alyssa said of the rope rules. “And you have to be under 135 pounds with all your gear on.

“You also get to know the bulls,” she adds, “as each bull has a specific strength, age and agility. You know how they buck and you study your bull when you’re waiting for your turn and when you’re pulling your rope.”

The rider cannot touch the bull, the rope, or themselves with their free arm. Doing so results in disqualification of points.

Low Rider, whose owner is Brian Turpitt of Genoa, Neb., is Alyssa’s favorite bull. She’s also ridden Smackdown, Diamond Slip Knot, Red Heat and Spiderman, to mention a few, and No Fun – “and he wasn’t any fun,” she said, laughing.

Despite the safety of the gear, riding has resulted in pulled muscles in Alyssa’s ribs, a cracked humerus bone in her upper arm, and severe tissue damage in her leg after being stepped on.

BULL RIDING REQUIRES balance, flexibility, coordination and courage; and this teen has all four.

Alyssa has been riding once or twice a month in the Tuff-N-Nuff Miniature Rodeo Association’s series for nearly a year. She rides in the Senior Mini Bulls division for ages 11-14 at events in Nebraska and Iowa.

For points to be awarded, the rider must stay mounted for a minimum of eight seconds, and is only scored for their actions during those eight seconds. Since Alyssa began riding, she has ridden the full eight seconds a half dozen times. She is ranked number 16 out of 29, only a half point from the top 15 to qualify for the world series which will be held in Lincoln in November. Winnings are prize money, a belt buckle or trophy.

When she turns 15, Alyssa will have to move to high school rodeo to compete. She has yet to determine if she will go on. Despite parents Kent and Kathy Hambleton being fully supportive, they are also leery of the danger of the higher level of competition.

But bull riding doesn’t shake Alyssa’s confidence.

“It gives you something to do, like a hobby,” she said. “You feel relaxed. Sometimes it feels tense, but it just relaxes me from everything. It’s really enjoyable.”


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