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There are not many brave enough to get on the back of a 2,000lbs bucking bull - and definitely not many 5ft5in girls - but there is at least one, and she is doing pretty well for herself.

Maggie Parker is the world's only female bull rider to compete professionally in the men's category and although she is only 20 years old, she is considered a veteran, having competed in nearly 200 rodeos.Despite her slender frame, Maggie, from Michigan, USA, regularly takes on bulls that weigh in excess of 2,000lbs - over 15 times her own size.
Maggie, who weighs 130lbs, became professional last June after tackling a bucking bull for the full eight seconds needed to qualify as a pro.The fact that professional bull riding is considered one of the world's most dangerous sports has not deterred Maggie from putting 100 per cent into her hobby.

She said: ‘Bull riding is one of the most dangerous sports because you're up against an animal and you don't know what he is going to do or what he's thinking.‘You will get bulls that are meaner than others but you really have to respect them. You can't ride against them, you have to ride with them.’

Maggie's path to the bull ring began four years ago in her hometown of Shastsburg, Michigan, when a family friend who used to ride bulls took her to a rodeo and she was hooked. Aged 17 she left home to live in the southern states, working on ranches in Oklahoma and Texas to fund her bull riding training, and recently moved to Santa Maria, California, to be trained by top mentor Gary Leffew. Maggie says her parents are supportive of her unusual career path - despite the obvious dangers.

But desite winning plaudits as a female in a predominantly male sport, Maggie says she still faces difficulties in being accepted - especially when she gets bucked off a bull. She said: ‘They [men] say, "This is why girls shouldn't ride bulls and girls aren't made for this." But it all depends on the person.

‘You're either a good bull rider or you're not. It takes a long time to gain people's respect and get treated the same as the men.‘Sometimes it's been harder for me because when you're learning how to ride a bull you're going to get bucked off - and you're going to get hurt. It's just not going to look very pretty while you're riding.’She now wears a full face mask and helmet to protect her, but revealed she has suffered being stood on by the bulls and endured knocks to the head.

Maggie, who says she is just as comfortable in a summer dress as she is in her Stetsons, said: ‘If I didn't wear my helmet I'd probably be a vegetable by now because I've been hit in the head.’
To keep on top of her sport, Maggie does ranch work, conducts regular workouts at the gym and practices techniques on a stationary barrel.

Speaking of his protege, Maggie's trainer Gary Leffew, who has coached 12 world champions, said: ‘She wasn't very good when she came to me but she had grit. ‘That's what I admire about her. She ain't got no quit in her - she's determined and she works long and hard on it.’


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