FARMINGTON — Chon Miranda leaned back against the wall near the bull pens Saturday night. He closed his eyes as he prepared for a ride that would last less than eight seconds.
Miranda was one of about 40 riders competing in the Hi-Country Buick GMC Buck'n Bull Bash at McGee Park in Farmington. The bulls and riders were pitted against one another for two evening, on Friday and Saturday.
The bash is one of San Juan County's pre-fair events. The fair officially kicks off at 8 a.m. today.
On Saturday, riders clung to the bull ropes wrapped around the animals' chests in attempt to stay on the longest while the bulls bucked and kicked. Meanwhile, the bulls' owners watched nearby, hoping their bulls would throw the riders quickly and be named the best bulls in the arena.
Miranda said before the ride he tries not to get scared.
A brown bull named Griz Jr. stood in a nearby back pens, waiting to be moved into the chute.
"I've been on him before once," Miranda said. "He's a really good bull. He threw me off last time. Hopefully, we can change that tonight."
When Griz Jr. burst out of the gate, Miranda clung to the bull rope for just less than the required eight seconds before he fell off the bull's right rear and scrambled for safety.
"He's a little bull," Miranda said. "But he really bucks. He bucks every time."
Miranda was not alone among the riders who failed to make the eight-second qualifying mark. Only bull riders who stay on the bull's back for eight seconds are able to score and thus win the event. Only half a dozen of the 40 riders were able to qualify, and each of them placed. Joseph McConnell won the event riding Knock 'Em Out, a bull provided by Four Corners Cartel, a business that focuses on raising bucking bulls.
The event also featured the Fosters Buck'n and Truck'n Mini Bull Riding, which allowed a handful of children to show off their bull riding abilities.
Seth Newton, 11, was one of the children who signed up, though he chose not to ride after seeing the long horns on his bull, Hidden Agenda.
If he had ridden on Saturday, it would have been his third time on the back of a bull. He said he was inspired to try bull riding after stories his father, Lee Newton, told him.
Lee Newton said he rode for years, and, though he was nervous to have his son ride, he didn't want to discourage Seth from trying new things.
"I want to let him try things, and he's an adrenaline junkie," Lee Newton said.
Other riders, like Jared Alderete, say they won't let their sons become bull riders after experiencing the injuries and dangers that come with the sport.
Alderete started riding when his grandfather prompted him to get on a bull as a child.
He rode Levi's Limelight on Saturday, and like most of the other bull riders, he failed to qualify.
"It's a mental challenge, really," he said.
He said it doesn't matter how physically fit a bull rider is, if he isn't mentally prepared, he'll get bucked from the bull.
Toward the end of the night, before the top 10 riders competed in the short-go, announcer Roy Champ read off the names of the winning contractors who provided the best bulls for the event. The winner of the classic bull riding event was Oswald Bucking Bulls and the derby bull riding winner was Washburn Bucking Bulls.
Champ has been announcing for bull riding events for about a dozen years, and he said it doesn't even feel like a job.
"I love it," Champ said. "I love the people, the sport, the animals. I'm living a dream."