Luke Snyder: Bull Rider-Yoga Extraordinaire

The thing about bull riding is that it's really, really dangerous. It's the kind of dangerous where you can wear a helmet, you can wear a protective vest, and the bull will still find your belly and eviscerate you. Or break your neck. Injury is a question of when, never if. Nobody rides bulls and doesn’t get hurt.

In spite of these dangers, or perhaps because of them, bull riding keeps its relevance testing 2,000 bulls against wiry men who have the grit to hold onto the bull and the agility to fall off safely. Usually. Contrary to common opinion, the bulls are often better cared for than the riders with the best bulls being worth $500,000 in the circuit, and are often quite pampered. Weak bulls mean poor rides and empty arenas. That doesn’t work for what is a spectator’s sport.

Now retired, Luke Snyder was a 15 year veteran of professional bull riding, and is an odd proponent of an unlikely pairing: yoga before bull riding. Except that it’s not so odd. Yoga strengthens the leg and core muscles which help with stability and keeping balance on a bucking bull. On assignment for the Wall Street Journal, I had a chance to photograph Luke doing his pre-ride yoga, then riding the bulls. It doesn’t make the bulls safer, but it does help in the riding of them. And that makes for a great spectacle.