Thursday, February 6, 2003

Millville bull riding school only 'just breaks the ice'

By Robert Lopez
Enquirer contributor

Richard Spreckelmeier is 66 years old, but occasionally he'll sit on one of the bulls at his ranch, to get his heart pounding.

"Of course when you get to be my age, you almost swear you can't do this anymore," he said. "It's definitely a young man's sport."

With his two sons, Spreckelmeier runs a bull riding school twice a year at the Hang'n Tree ranch near Millville. The weekend-long classes teach riders how to balance themselves, how to put a rope on a bull and even a little horseback riding. By the end of the sessions, students mount two or three bulls.

"After that they're ready to call it quits for the day," Spreckelmeier said. "Unless you're really used to it right off the bat, you're pretty tired after two or three. It takes a lot out of you."

Bull riders claim the bulls suffer very little from the sport.

"They tie the rope to the back end. It doesn't hurt them," rider Brian Seebock of Vandalia, Ohio, says. "It's like getting on a horse and tying a rope around its belly. It's just something that isn't there and they're trying to get it off. That's what makes them kick."

"It may sound funny but they (the bulls) are easily spoiled," Spreckelmeier said. "People think they're mean but they're not. You don't want a mean bull that can't behave itself and just wants to hurt the riders. The cowboys are our bread and butter."

The ranch hosts a jackpot rodeo every Friday night at 8 and afterward offers a few practice runs for $15. Spreckelmeier typically charges $250 for the school, but in order to give everyone a fair shot at riding some bulls, he limits class size to 12.

"One thing we do stress is that just because you take a school, it doesn't mean you're going to be good bull riders," he said. "It more or less just breaks the ice. From there you need to keep getting on and getting on and getting on. Some turn out to be really good bull riders and others can't stand all the bumps and grinds of hitting the ground so hard."

Hang'n Tree Bull Riding, (513) 756-9523.

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