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A broken arm, a few broken ribs, a twice-broken foot, twice-dislocated shoulder, and getting knocked out four or five times—just a few of the occupational hazards of professional bull riding. And Nile Lebaron says there’s nowhere else he’d rather be.
“I’m just living the dream. I don’t consider it my job. If I can make money, or when I make money and get paid, that’s cool too, but riding bulls is what I’m here to do.”
Luckily, Nile is doing pretty well at both riding bulls and making money this season. In January and February alone, the 24-year old bull rider from Chihuahua, Mexico, has already garnered more than $25,000 in winnings.
The professional bull rider, who's making a comeback in the sport this year after a two-year hiatus, hopes to do well enough to qualify for the World Championship Finals in October.
Lebaron’s first bull riding experience came on his family’s ranch when he was just 15. It only took a few bulls bucking him to the ground before he was hooked.
“Bulls are mean and will chase you,” Niles says, then adds with a laugh: “I’m just not too scared of the bulls, I guess.”
It didn’t take long for him to start entering local junior rodeos, where in just a few years his reputation grew beyond Chihuahua and onto the national scene.
When Mexico was putting together its national team for the World Cup of Bull Riding in 2008, Nile was invited to represent his country as a member of Team Mexico, and then invited again in 2009 as well as 2010.
“Your not just trying to ride bulls for yourself to make money or whatever. You have the whole weight of your country on your shoulders, and if you let them down, it feels pretty dang bad,” Nile says.
There’s good reason bull riding has been called the most dangerous eight seconds in sports. Some bulls can weigh more than 2,000 pounds, and are still just as quick as they are big. The goal of the rider is to stay on top of these massive, bucking machines for at least 8 seconds to get a score, and then get out of the ring without getting stomped on.
“If you think about it too much it gets a lot scarier than it really is I guess,” Lebaron says with a grin.
After riding in three World Cups, Lebaron came to the United States to turn pro and compete in the bigger, more lucrative rodeo circuits.
But a string of injuries kept him out of rodeos for large chunks of 2010 and 2011. While recovering, Nile found work on several nearby ranches surrounding his home in Hamilton, Texas, about 45-minutes west of Dallas.
The time away from the ring also gave him more time at home with his wife of four years, Christina, and their two young daughters, Camrin, 3 years-old, and Hailey, who is three-months old.
It is because of his two daughters that Nile is planning to make the U.S. his permanent home. He says safety and opportunity are much more abundant in America than in his native Mexico.
Christina and the girls are Lebaron’s biggest fans and travel with him to as many rodeos as they can.
“She goes everywhere with me. She gets out the video camera and cheers for me, and she has a great time. She loves it,” a smiling Nile says of his wife.
Now healthy, Lebaron is taking the 2012 season by storm, and is off to the best start of a season in his career.
Nile’s ultimate goal is to win enough rodeos to qualify for the World Championship Finals in Las Vegas, where the top-15 riders compete to be World Champion.
But Lebaron says the only way he’ll reach that goal is by taking it one bull at a time.
“You can start dreaming about how you’re going to try to win the world or do this and that, but it starts with the first rodeo and then the second rodeo,” Nile explains. “Just ride the very best you can every time you nod your head…and the rest will take care of itself.”
Garrett Tenney is a Junior Reporter for Fox News.com.
Garrett Tenney is a correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in April 2013 and is based in the DC bureau.