Fort Worth Stock Show

January 28, 2013

Star-Telegram reporter takes a ride on the wild side

Mechanical bulls and broncos designed to train rodeo contestants provide thrills for adventurous visitors to the Fort Worth Stock Show.

FORT WORTH -- There are those who ride broncos in life and there are those who are merely spectators.

Until Monday I was happy to be the spectator.

But I may have found my new calling after taking a whirl on a Robo Bronco, one of the attractions in the Rodeo Zone exhibit at the Fort Worth Stock Show.

These are not your grandmother's mechanical bulls and broncos.

These are mechanical animals on performance-enhancing drugs.

Attached to wheeled platforms, these animals don't just buck in place -- they move up and down while spinning -- a real-life rodeo romp, minus the spurs.

Rodeo Zone owner Jim Donnelly designed the equipment eight years ago to train rodeo athletes.

"Jim built them originally to help young kids to learn how to ride. That way they didn't have to get on a real bull the first," explained Rodeo Zone employee Monty Smith, who was operating the exhibit Monday morning. "They could actually practice a little bit. Get their balance situated, time down, muscles ready for riding. Learn the basics and then get on the real bull."

Then, two years ago, Donnelly decided to extend the rodeo opportunity to everyone and Rodeo Zone was born.

Previously located in the Stockyards on Fort Worth's north side, the business is in the process of moving to a new location in Saginaw. It's also available for birthday parties, festivals, rodeo schools and other events.

"We do a lot of chamber meetings and team-building events," Smith said. "If adults will actually let loose and get over the fear of being embarrassed, they'd have a blast out here."

For the younger kids and the young at heart, there are pedal-powered horses that you can use to practice barrel racing or roping.

For the more adventurous, you can saddle up one of the mechanical animals, including a TCU Horned Frog and a giant bass. And, don't worry, the machines have seat belts.

"We've had 2-year-olds to 90-year-olds riding our machines," Smith said. "The 90-year-old lady got off the machine, pulled out her purse and pulled out her little list and checked that off. She had her little bucket list."

Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655Twitter: @deannaboyd

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