The Physics of Riding Bulls
Rodeo is a sport that came about by everyday work being made into competition.
Every event in rodeo has a practical purpose; all but one that is. There is no practical reason to get on a bull; only the thrills, chills, and rush of excitement. It¡¦s more than a challenge between riders. It¡¦s a challenge between man and beast. Legendary cowboy Larry Mahan had an even different way of looking at it. He said, ¡§It¡¦s not a challenge with the animal but with the weakness in one¡¦s self¡¨. At any rate, it¡¦s all about the challenge.
The challenge is simple; stay on the bull¡¦s back for eight seconds while keeping one hand fee from contact with the bull or your own body. Well it sounds simple anyways. Bull riding is a difficult challenge that involves overcoming many forces.
Bulls will try just about anything to get a rider off their back. This includes raring, kicking, spinning, jumping, belly rolls, and some unintended moves such as stumbling and falling down. All the moves produce some sort of force the rider has to overcome.
Fortunately the rider can produce a few forces of their own. Mainly, the rider only has a combination or leg strength and arm strength to counter with. But, there is a lot that a rider can do to overcome these forces through body positioning.
There are really two different types of bulls; fast bulls, and strong bulls. Fast bulls are the hardest to ride. Typically, a bull can move much faster that a human making it difficult for the rider to keep up.
There are basically three types of motions that a bull can make: linear, circular, and rotational. Linear motions include the rare, kick, jump, and just plain running. Circular motions include spinning. Rotational motions include belly rolls.
A bull that runs only creates one type of motion moving straight forward. This exerts a force in the opposite direction the bull is going. The force is the product of the bull¡¦s mass and its acceleration. With a rider on the bull¡¦s back this force then becomes a combination of the bull¡¦s mass plus the rider¡¦s mass times the acceleration of both which is attributed only by the bull. All the rider needs to do in this case is hold on tight. There may be some air resistance, but it is too small to notice.
The bull further complicates the ride by bucking (a combination of raring, kicking, and jumping). Each component of the buck is relatively simple. When a bull rares, it creates a force pushing the rider backwards. When a bull kicks, it creates a force throwing the rider forwards. When the bull jumps, it creates a force pushing the rider straight upwards. Each force is once again the product of how fast the bull changes positions (acceleration) and it¡¦s mass. In each of these situations the bull¡¦s mass is combined with the rider¡¦s. So, if the combined mass remains the same, all the rider has to do to counter the force created by the bull is move in the opposite direction as the bull...