By Chris Stone
How do you save your life if a bull is charging at you? Jump over it, of course. But your timing must be perfect.That fete was demonstrated Saturday at the Extreme Tem Rodeo in the Del Mar Arena at the San Diego County Fair.
The rodeo continues Sunday with shows at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Manu Lataste, a bull jumper from France, leaped for his life several times to the delight of thousands of spectators at the fair.
The bull is coaxed to the opposite end of the arena from Lataste. The animal has to run at a certain speed or the trick could end in disaster.
Lataste gets a running start and vaults in the air or somersaults over the charging bull who instantly loses its target.
Bull jumping is one of numerous creative and totally unconventional stunts performed by the Hand to Horn Combat team and stuntmen in conjunction with Flyin’ U Rodeo.
Mason Moore, Hand to Horn Combat manager, explains, “The team was specifically made to help military members that are out of the service to keep the camaraderie and to keep the unit together for the guys who don’t have it anymore.”
“Everybody else who is not in military is just a big supporter of it,” he said.
In a competition of four color-coded teams, they did bull riding, horse riding, bike riding, and lots of steer dodging.
The stunts include Bull Poker, in which the last cowboy still sitting at the poker card table wins. By the way, a bull comes charging at them.In Bull Teeter-Totter, cowboys ride up and down to avoid being hit by a steer. On Saturday, the bull didn’t seem all that interested is causing a disruption.
In the Ring of Fire, a cowboy has to stay in a ring surrounded by fire, and is eliminated if he leaves the circle on account of a visiting bull.
The trick involving cowboys inside inflated balls is among the most dangerous because one poke of a bull’s horn and the air literally is let out of their performance.
“Yeah, there’s nothing really safe about it,” concedes Moore, who was in the Marines until May 10. He served two tours in the Middle East.
“We try to use the best animals we can that will cooperate the most with us because they’ve played the game before,” he said. “So we try not to use guys (bulls) that are really, really hot — like some bulls just want to go out there and eliminate you with all they can. Some bulls just like to go out and hit you, and then they’re done with you.
“It’s usually a little safer that way,” Moore said. “It’s a wild animal. You can’t really estimate what it’s going to do. You just kind of got to go with the flow.”
And that’s why the “team” in Extreme Team Rodeo is so important.
Teammates trust each other and get each other out of jams with a noncooperative animal by distracting it, he said.
Fortunately, bumps, bruises and a twisted ankle or two have been the extent of team injuries.
They practice regularly near Murrieta and are booked for about nine rodeos this year.“We all practice pretty hard and keep each other up,” said Moore, who has performed with the group for two years. “We like to get a live bull practice at least once, twice a month. And then other than that — every weekend — we’re doing footwork. Footwork is the key to everything, really.”
The youngest member is 22 and the oldest 35.
Why does Moore do it?
“It’s just the excitement of it and I grew up around rodeos,” said Moore — originally from Utica, Missouri, but now a Murrieta resident.
“And most of the guys on the team grew up around rodeos. Quite a few of the guys haven’t, so it’s like a new experience for them,” he said. “But they love it as much … and they love supporting us and being there with us, and just enjoying what we do with us.”
The San Diego County Fair at the Del Mar Fairgrounds runs through Tuesday, July 4; it is closed the first four Mondays and the first three Tuesdays.
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