The two gatemen are poised to yank open the chute. The flank man, a remote control clenched in his teeth, makes a final adjustment of the flank strap, as his assistant peers over his shoulder. Forward of the flank strap on the young bull’s back, a 10-pound electronic simulator replicates the sensation of a rider on his back. The gate bursts open, the two gatemen scurry up the fence, and the bull explodes from the chute, bucking and twisting. Four seconds later, the flank man hits the remote, the lightweight simulator flies free and goes airborne, and the bull trots off.
“Good one!” exclaims one of the gatemen, clapping. She tells me later that four seconds with the lightweight simulator on the young bull’s back helps her determine the bull’s natural bucking tendencies.
It’s all in a day’s work for this former Marine, wife, and mother: She’s a full-time stock contractor.
Scarlet Floyd, along with her husband, Toby, owns and operates Floyd Bucking Bulls. The assistant behind Toby is their 10-year-old son, Briar, and the gal handling the gate rope today is their 14-year-old daughter Arianna.
“Perhaps one of my favorite things about this business is that it’s something we can all do together as a family,” says Scarlet. “We work with these animals from the time they hit the ground to the time they perform; weaning, chute-breaking, building trust.”
Toby, a former bull rider who first partnered with his college buddy, Brad Boyd, in Boyd & Floyd Bucking Bulls, gained a formidable partner when he married Scarlet.
“Toby’s been involved in raising bucking bulls for about 25 years,” says Scarlet. “My background’s a bit different: I was a Marine Corps military police woman and martial arts instructor for eight years. I met Toby when I was stationed in San Antonio, and every weekend I would come help him with the bulls, helping feed, and learning the training process. I’ve been neck-deep in it ever since.”
Scarlet stays involved with the bulls every step of the way. “I love watching the baby bulls,” she says. “I study them from an early age and try to pick out the superstars. We participate in futurities (riderless bucking events for young bulls) such as the ABBI American Heritage, where we have to choose our bulls at six months and pay each quarter to stay registered until they are 2-year-olds. You can’t make substitutions, and a lot can happen along the way.” This past summer, one of her “picks” placed 7th in the Heritage.
Scarlet finds that having been a Marine martial arts instructor gives her an advantage in working so closely with the bulls. “It certainly helps to be light on your feet while working around these young bulls,” she says. “They’re scared; they don’t yet understand what we’re trying to teach them, so they can be a little aggressive, but that’s only out of fear. I think I also have a little edge being a mother, as it’s helped me to develop a strong empathy with these animals.”
The Business of Bulls
Breeding, training, and providing bucking bulls to rodeos—especially to the Professional Bull Riders (PBR)—is a big business; one that can pay off handsomely for a stock contractor. While beef calves might sell for $600 or so, a well-bred performance calf can command upward of $5,000.
Viewership of bull-riding events has exploded in popularity since the PBR was first formed in 1992. In fact, the average CBS television broadcast of PBR draws more than one million viewers each event, sometimes out-rating sports such as PGA Golf and MLB. In-person attendance at PBR events has multiplied nearly tenfold since 1995, from 310,000 then to more than 3 million now.
Along with this increased popularity has come an appreciation that the bull rider isn’t the only athlete in the arena. Thanks to legendary bulls such as Bushwacker, retired in 2014 with lifetime earnings of $600,000 and valued at $2 million, top-performing bucking bulls are spoken of with the reverence once reserved for Secretariat.
Floyd’s Bucking Bulls has had its own rockstars: their bull Black Pearl won about $500,000 in his three-year career and sired Pearl Harbor, bred by the Floyds and owned by Chad Berger. Pearl Harbor was considered among the greats before his death as a 6-year-old from a blood clot in his brain earlier this year.
PBR boasts 216 stock contractors on its website, and women are increasingly joining the ranks. Some contractors, such as the Floyds, own all their own bulls; others, such as Mike and Christina Heald of Heald Pro Bulls, choose to partner with another stock contractor.
“We partner with Chad Berger,” Christina Heald says, “who’s the Seven-Time PBR Stock Contractor of the Year. Chad keeps our bulls for us, summering them in Mandan, North Dakota, and wintering them near Henrietta, Oklahoma.”
Although Berger works with a number of different partners in addition to the Healds—including Julie Rosen, Connie Pagels, Brent and Margo Hazen, and Dave and Mary Miller—his “go-to” partner is his wife, Sarah, who assists in all facets of the business. The Berger’s children, Lacey, John, and Sadie, also work for Chad Berger Bucking Bulls.
Grace and Grit
Although her father was a stock contractor and she started breeding her own bulls while still in high school, Tiffany Davis might have had other plans for her future than to become a stock contractor herself, but a cataclysmic twist of fate swept that all away in an instant.
In 1998, her fiancé Jerome Davis, one of PBR’s founders and the 1995 World Champion Bull Rider, broke his neck in a Fort Worth competition. He would be paralyzed from the chest down. And although his doctor misjudged Tiffany as one of the 9 out of ten who would bolt from such tragedy, she defied those odds, and she and Jerome married just seven months after the accident and have not spent a night apart since. In addition to being Jerome’s wife, she’s also his primary caregiver and business partner.
Today, the couple’s Davis Rodeo Ranch Livestock in Archdale, North Carolina, raises quality bucking bulls for the next generation of riders, producing PBR standout Superfreak, winner of the 2008 ABBI American Heritage and its $96,000 purse. Still, the event closest to Tiffany’s heart is the one-day Christian Junior Rodeo they host at their ranch that draws as many as 500 youths from a dozen or more states.
As Tiffany related to the Asheboro, North Carolina, Courier Tribune a few years back, “One of the things I thought when Jerome got hurt was, ‘Why Jerome? He’s one of the good guys—he was good for God to have out there as a bull rider.’ I didn’t understand it at first, but as my faith has grown, I can see how many more people he’s probably helped by being in the wheelchair and inspiring people than if he’d went off and won another two or three gold buckles. I can step back and see that now.”
In recognition of her contributions to the bull-riding community, PBR named her as the inaugural recipient of the Sharon Shoulders Award in 2010. The award, named for the wife of legendary bull rider Jim Shoulders, recognizes women whose contributions to the sport of bull riding have been as great as the riders themselves.
So the next time you attend—or view— a PBR event, train your eyes behind the chutes: You just may spot one of these gals or another woman stock contractor speaking in soothing tones to the nearly one-ton muscled athlete coiled like a spring behind the gate.
“They’re like members of our families,” says Scarlet Floyd, in summary. “Our bulls are not just tools or the means to an end. We take care of them and they take care of us.”
PBR and ABBI
Professional Bull Riders was founded in 1992 by 20 bull riders who each contributed $1,000 to a shared dream: Make bull riding a standalone sport outside of traditional rodeo. Today, PBR’s branded “The Toughest Sport on Dirt” has become one of the fastest-growing franchises in the history of sports, with PBR broadcasts reaching more than 400 million households in 130 territories..
Among those broadcasts is its weekly 25th PBR: Unleash The Beast, a series of bull riding competitions held in major national venues with the pulsating soundtracks, pyrotechnics, and fast-paced production values rivaling any rock concert. PBR’s elite series culminates in the richest bull riding event on earth, 25th PBR World Finals: Unleash The Beast in Las Vegas, with the winner receiving a $1 million bonus.
Currently, the PBR membership roster includes more than 1000 bull riders from the United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, and Mexico.
Recognizing the importance that bucking bulls bring to its events, PBR, along with forward-thinking stock contractors, formed American Bucking Bull, Inc., (ABBI) in 2003 by acquiring the Rodeo Stock Registry (RSR), and building its DNA registry on top of that database. ABBI’s goal was not only to preserve the genetics of these bovine athletes, but to create standalone events in which bucking bulls could be judged on their own merits, regardless of how their riders performed.
Prior to the success of ABBI, the top money a bucking bull could earn was $20,000 as World Champion Bucking Bull. Today, bulls can earn upward of a half-million dollars as 2-to-4-year-olds competing in ABBI events. First place alone in ABBI’s American Heritage comes with a $100,000 cash prize.
ABBI is owned 50/50 by PBR and a group of stock contractors, united in the goal of preserving and promoting “America’s Original Extreme Sport.”