But Ropp took to the sport pretty naturally. He acknowledges "it's not all roses" " he's broken his femur and suffered lots of other, smaller injuries " but he can't imagine anything he'd rather do.
"You can make a good living," he said, noting that a single event can have purses as high as $30,000 or $45,000.
Of course, riders don't make much money unless they can stay on their bulls long enough to earn high marks from the judges. To hear Ropp tell it, the secret to staying on a bull is mainly mental.
"You train your mind not to think," he said. "Your mind will play tricks on you. You train your body and mind to react. You gotta have faith in yourself."
It's impossible to know when you're going to get "hung up and beat around," Ropp said. If you're constantly worrying about that, you'll be tense and more apt to fly off the animal.
So instead, he tries to enter each match with a clear head, letting the chips fall where they may.
"Most of all, it's a mind game," he said. "You really, really want to be confident."
Of course, you don't want to be too confident " Ropp stressed that there's a fine line between confidence and cockiness, and it's important for bull riders to straddle that line.
There's no one to really help him walk that line. "We don't have coaches or anything," he said.
That leaves Ropp to his own devices so far as practicing and getting better. What he's found is that he doesn't particularly like to spend his off time riding, as he'll lose that looseness that he so covets.
"I really try to meditate a lot," he said of the hours he spends away from arenas. He also does some public relations work for the associations with which he rides, granting interviews and advancing the sport.