Q&A: Luke Snyder

The professional bull rider gets ready to take the World Finals by the horns

Oct 18, 2013 | By Stephanie Kraus
ANDY WATSON

They don’t call him Cool Hand Luke for nothing! It’s going to take a lot more than a bull to shake Luke Snyder from becoming the 2013 World Champion. When Snyder joined the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) at age 18, he won Rookie of the Year and the PBR World Finals. Since then, he has conquered hundreds of angry bulls in more than 250 major events.

Snyder will compete in this year’s PBR World Finals. The competition is being held in Las Vegas, Nevada, from October 23 to 27. He will go head-to-head with a bull named “The Rocker.” And, that’s just Round One!

Before the competition, Snyder sat down with TFK in a country-themed restaurant in one of his favorite cities — New York. The Missouri native told TFK that he was instantly “hooked” when he first started riding bulls at age 10. Read on to see what the daredevil says about riding a 2,000-pound bull and bucking at the professional level.

TFK:

What made you want to become a bull rider?

LUKE SNYDER:

My grandpa raised cattle, but I was the first one in my family that wanted to ride bulls for a living. When I was 10 years old, I went to a bull riding show and thought those guys were the coolest. I looked up to them. I signed up for a camp where they taught me the ins and outs of bull riding.

TFK:

How long until you got into the swing of it?

SNYDER:

It took a couple months before I stayed on a steer. I ended up winning $300 at my first competition and that was it for me—I was hooked.

TFK:

You joined the Professional Bullriders (PBR) at age 18. What did your family think about your decision?

SNYDER:

Well, they’re the ones who took me to school when I was 10. They were very supportive but it made them very nervous. They could see how much I wanted to do it so they got behind me 100%.

TFK:

You’ve been riding for 13 years. How has it changed for you since you first started?

SNYDER:

I don’t get up nearly as quickly. I don’t feel like I bounce at all. Things get sore a lot quicker and stay sore a lot longer. I’m 30 and I think the oldest professional bullrider is 33. That’s old in this sport.

TFK:

How do you train to stay fit?

SNYDER:

I’m not trying to lift heavy weights and get bulky because I’ll never be able to outmuscle a bull. Also, the more bulk you put on the easier it is for the steer to throw you off. I’m just trying to be limber, strong, and light.

Luke Snyder greets the crowd at the PBR 15/15 Bucking Battle, where the world's top 15 riders compete against the 15 highest-ranked bulls.
ANDY WATSON
Luke Snyder greets the crowd at the PBR 15/15 Bucking Battle, where the world's top 15 riders compete against the 15 highest-ranked bulls.

TFK:

What is going through your mind when you’re riding a bull?

SNYDER:

As little as possible.  It’s really easy to overthink. The [bulls] are going to do what they want to, so you can’t overthink it too much.

TFK:

Do you ever get scared?

SNYDER:

Every time. Well, not scared as much as nervous. It’s good to be nervous and aware of what could happen – that’s what keeps us on our toes.

TFK:

What was your worst ride?

SNYDER:

My worst ride was probably a bull called Déjà Vu in Canada. I broke my neck. It wasn’t my most painful injury, but it was probably my worst ride.

TFK:

What is your pre-ride routine?

SNYDER:

I don’t eat three hours prior to my competitions. I like to feel light when I get on. Some guys listen to music to get themselves psyched up, but I like to joke around.                    

TFK:

What is your favorite city on the tour?

SNYDER:

New York. It’s a great event, ad there’s a lot of history behind Madison Square Garden — a lot of cowboy history. I love the city. I proposed to my wife here so it is very special to us.

TFK:

What hobbies do you enjoy when you’re not competing?

SNYDER:

Fishing and hunting. [I like to] just be out on a lake in the summer and on a mountain in the winter. I snowboard and ski a lot.

TFK:

What would it mean to you to make it to this year's World Finals in Las Vegas, Nevada?

SNYDER:

It would be a great honor. If I make this year, that would be 13 in row since I started. Only 35 guys get to go to Las Vegas every year, so it’s an honor.

TFK:

Who do you think will win this year’s title?

SNYDER:

Well, I’m going to give it a shot! I’m still in it, so you’re not going to get any other answer from me.

TFK:

What advice would you give kids that are thinking of getting into bull riding when they’re older?

SNYDER:

Just know that it’s very dangerous and you can get seriously hurt. Other than that, it’s a great sport and you can travel the world.