Quite A Ride
Palms sweat, heart races, adrenaline soars. Ease on down, grab the rope, knees mashed against its massive sides. Your mind races as the 1,800 pound bull between your legs bangs against the metal gate and snorts his readiness to go. You swallow, take a deep breath, and nod. Ready or not, here comes the most dangerous 8 seconds in sports.
The gate flies open and the bull explodes in a flurry of bucking, kicking, and spinning. You don’t have time to think. Trying to keep one hand in the air and your feet on each side, it feels like you are constantly on the edge of getting thrown off. For eight long seconds you are never in control, you’re just trying to counteract what the bull is doing as he jerks you violently back and forth.
Finally, it’s over, but you still have to get off the Tazmanian devil whirling beneath you, and he doesn’t know it’s time to call it a day. You let go, and in a final “who gets the last laugh” buck, the bull flips you off and you smack the ground like a rag doll. Then to top it off, you have to immediately pop up and sprint to safety as the bullfighters try to distract the bucking beast.
Sound like a tough way to make a living? Well ever since Wiley Petersen took his first ride at the age of ten, he knew that bull riding was exactly what he wanted to do in his life. Twenty-two years later he’ll tell you, it’s been quite a ride.
I caught up with Wiley just after he announced his retirement from professional bull riding. Known on the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) circuit as “The Christian Bull Rider”, Wiley turned hard work into success as he finished twelve years of professional bull riding with a career riding percentage of 48.8% (the equivalent of a .300 lifetime batting average in Major League Baseball). He went the distance on a whopping 356 of 729 of the toughest bulls in the world.
With over a million and a half dollars in career earnings, only 11 riders have earned more money than him in PBR history. Yet despite his success in the ring, he’s more proud of the opportunities that his career has given him to share his faith.
“My faith is what drives me to ride bulls so that I can share it with more and more people. My faith has helped me make better decisions and put other people above myself. Life would be nothing without my relationship with God.”
Although always believing in God, Wiley can track the day that he truly came to know the Lord. He was eighteen and being dragged to a new church with his mom, but when he got there he saw the love that people had for each other and for God and it made a huge impact on him. It was the passion in that church which really made it personal for him. And as you would expect from a man who has the drive to one day become a professional bull rider, Wiley jumped in with both feet.
“I immediately dove into my new relationship with God and began to read my Bible, be around other Christians, and pray like never before. I couldn’t keep my excitement about the Gospel in. I wanted everyone to know that they could be saved and go to heaven through Jesus Christ.”
In an era when separating one’s personal life from professional life is the norm, and the thought of proclaiming one’s faith from the rooftop can be even scarier than the thought of riding a bucking bull, I asked Wiley when he decided to merge his passion for the Lord and his passion for riding.
“I was a senior in high school when I became a Christian, so bull riding wasn’t my livelihood yet, but I immediately started sharing my faith with everyone at the rodeos I attended. I don’t think I consciously decided to become the Christian Bull Rider, but when you are excited about something, you can’t keep it quiet.”
After qualifying for the National High School Rodeo Finals twice, Wiley received a rodeo scholarship to Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho. He qualified for the College National Finals twice as well before joining the PBR.
Rodeo Facts: The Cattle Prod
The cattle prod is a low voltage prod that emits a slight shock of electricity. They are so low in voltage that they don’t even hurt people. To minimize injury to the animal, these prods are only used when absolutely necessary. If a bull starts trying to kick and horn everything, they could injure themselves or other people and animals.