Bruises, sprains, a couple of broken collar bones, some broken ribs, a broken pelvis and a broken hip: these are the high points of Bryan Titman’s injuries received while on the job, the injuries he collected while riding bulls.
“My longest recovery was when I broke my hip and pelvis,” the 31-year-old Texan said. “I was out six months.”
He was supposed to be out for a year and a half.
“But I healed fast,” the bull rider said.
Feeling healthy and strong, Titman joins the rest of the riders this weekend at Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington for the Professional Bull Riders Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour, a two-day contest featuring some of the best bull riders in the world battling the sport’s “rankest bovine athletes.”
Titman has a healthy respect for the bovine athletes, the bulls. Speaking over the phone, he sounded slightly in awe of them. The average bull weighs 1,500 pounds. Heavily muscled and surprisingly fast, a bull can easily cripple or kill a man and those eight seconds a rider has to try and stay on the animal can seem like hours.
“They’re just incredible animals,” Titman said. “If you can conquer something that amazing, it’s a cool feeling.”
Titman was practically born to be a bull rider. His grandfather and father were both professional bull riders. When he was a kid, Titman said, when all the other kids were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, they all said the usual — fireman, police officers, astronauts.
“I just wanted to be a bull rider,” he said.
By the time he got to elementary school, Titman was already on that path. His father began training him to ride bulls when he was 3 years old.
“I rode sheep, calves, steers and junior bulls, working my way up,” Titman said.
“They’re big runners,” the bull rider explained. “It gets you ready for the forward movement.”
To prepare for a ride, Titman said he has a little ritual. Each time, he eats five peanut M&Ms.
“It doesn’t matter what color,” he laughed. “It’s just to get a little sugar rush, but I’ve got to have them.”
Bull riding can be dangerous, he acknowledged, but injuries aren’t as permanently debilitating as they used to be. Treatments and technology have come a long way since the days when his father and grandfather were part of the sport.
The doctors they work with are specific to the sport, Titman said. They know what kinds of injuries to look for and how best to treat them.
It used to be that bull riders would be ending their careers in their mid-30s, but Titman said now riders can easily compete into their mid-40s.
That requires some work, though. Like any other athlete, he has to put some time in preparing for the event.
“I do a lot of cardio and gym work to prepare,” he said. “It’s not a lot of weights, but a lot of stuff to build up my core.”
Still, accidents happen. The bull goes one way and the rider goes another.
“The Lord is always with you and always shining down on you,” he said. “No matter what you do in life, when it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go.”