Pro Rodeo and the Professional Bull Riders have been getting a lot of ink and air time the past two weeks as Ty Murray appears on ABC's Dancing with the Stars. Murray, a nine-time world champion cowboy, is teamed with Chelsie Hightower.

He says it has been very difficult.

"You're learning so much in such a short amount of time that you've got a million things going through your head," Murray said. "Then they stick you out there on that stage and you've got 25 million people watching you. It's tough."

Murray and Hightower received 14 points out of a possible 30 in the first round doing the cha-cha.

Murray admits he was very nervous as they went on stage.

"I really didn't think that would be a problem, because my whole career I rode in front of big crowds and on television, but that was something that I know frontwards, backwards and sideways," he said. "Whenever you have something that is so new to you and really, out of your comfort zone, it makes it a lot harder."

Murray and Hightower came back strong this week with 20 points dancing the quick-step.

"You know, you're on a really fast learning curve and you're just not natural at it," he said. "You miss one step, and you're not natural at it enough to fall right back into the count. It's hard to move your right foot when you're standing on it."

Murray had high praise for his partner Hightower.

"She's 19 years old and she's from Orem, Utah," Murray said. "She's a great kid, an unbelievable dancer and a great coach."

Murray says they practice about six hours a day and the hard work is showing with some of the other celebrities getting injured, including his wife, Jewel.

"She's sore. She's on crutches and she has a stress fracture in her leg," he said. "There's been a lot of injuries."

Murray says the support he is getting from the fans is a little overwhelming.

"The cowboy, rodeo and bull riding community has really gotten behind me," he said. "They are cheering me on and I'm going to do my best to pack the flag for the cowboys."

PBR: Another young gun captured his first win on the Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough Series Tour. Ryan McConnel, of Colgate, Okla., took home the title in Birmingham, Ala., after turning in a three-round score of 265.5 points. McConnel earned $30,648 and jumped all the way to the top 10 in the PBR world standings.

"It feels great. I told my cousin and I told my sister that this would be the week that I would get a win," he said. "I'm so ecstatic right now. I'm glad it worked out."

McConnel is excited about his chances now with a win under his belt.

"I realize that I can win one now and it's not going to get any easier, it's darn sure going to be a hard task every time to win one," he said. "I know I can now, so it will be in the cards for the future."


Butch Thurman has covered professional rodeo for 29 years. His e-mail address is


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