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Professional Bull Riders: Get Up Close and Personal with the Cowboys

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Quick, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Madison Square Garden?

We’re guessing you didn’t say bucking bulls.

But once a year at the famed N.Y.C. arena, the cowboys and the the four-legged athletes of the Professional Bull Riders roll in to kick off their season. This year, PEOPLE got down on the dirt and behind the bucking chutes (scary!) to get the inside scoop on the most dangerous eight seconds around.

The rules are simple: riders have to stay on their bulls for eight seconds, holding on to their rope with one hand, and not touch the bull or themselves with their free arm. Fast-growing in popularity, the PBR regularly packs arenas and even attracts celebrity fans – Martha Stewart and Stephen Baldwin attended the Manhattan event, and Chad Ochocinco has attempted the sport.

As for the bulls, PEOPLE watched them load into the Garden and relax behind the scenes before the action began.

“It’s a misconception that the animals are mistreated,” says bull rider Reese Cates. “I would say that the animals are treated better than the guys who are actually getting on ’em.”

As for the placement of that strap that goes around the bull, another rider reveals that it has nothing to do with the animals’, um, manhood.

“You can imagine, if they did something like that to me, I’m not going to move too much,” bull rider Pistol Robinson told PEOPLE with a laugh. “These animals are born, raised and trained to do this. They work eight seconds a weekend. It’s a pretty good job.”

The PBR Built Ford Tough Series season continues on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on CBS.