Professional Rodeo Action:
Roughstock Events and Timed Events
Bareback Bronc Riding
Bareback bronc riding does not use a saddle or rein but instead grips a simple handle mounted above the horse’s withers with one gloved hand. The rider in this event leans back against the bucking horse and spurs in an up and down motion with his legs, again in rhythm with the motion of the horse. The rider attempts to stay on the horse for 8 seconds without touching the horse with his free hand after “marking the horse out” meaning having the heels of his boots in contact with the horses shoulders the first jump out of the chute before the horse front legs hit the ground. The rider that manages to complete a ride is scored on a scale of 0-50 and the horse is also scored on a scale of 0-50. Scores in the 80s are very good and in the 90s are exceptional.
Steer wrestling features a steer and two mounted cowboys. The steers are moved through a chute with spring-loaded doors. A 10-foot rope is fastened around the steer’s neck, which is used to ensure that the steer gets a head start. On one side of the chute is the hazer, whose job is to ride parallel with the steer once it begins running and ensure it runs in a straight line. On the other side of the chute the steer wrestler or bulldogger waits behind a taut rope fastened with an easily broken string, which is fastened to the rope on the steer.
Team roping also known as heading and heeling is a rodeo event that features a steer and two mounted cowboys. The heeler waits until the header has turned the steer. When he has a clear way, he throws a loop of rope under the running steer’s hind legs and catches them. As soon as the steer is stretched out, an official waves a flag and the time is taken. The steer is released and trots off. There is a 5 second penalty for roping only one hind leg and a 10 second penalty for breaking the barrier. The event takes between 4 and 12 seconds for a professional team. Originally cowboys employed this same technique on the open range to work cattle.
Saddle Bronc Riding
A saddle bronc rider is required to use a specialized saddle. This saddle has free-swinging stirrups and no horn. The saddle bronc rider grips barehanded a simple rein braided from grass or polyester and attached to a leather and sheepskin halter worn by the horse. The rider lifts on the rein and attempts to find a rhythm with the animal by spurring forwards and backwards with his feet. When the rider says he is ready, the gate of the bucking chute is opened and the horse bursts out and attempts to throw or buck off the rider. The rider attempts to stay on the horse for 8 seconds without touching the horse with his free hand after “marking the horse out” meaning having the heels of his boots in contact with the horses shoulders the first jump out of the chute before the horse front legs hit the ground. The rider that manages to complete a ride is scored on a scale of 0-50 and the horse is also scored on a scale of 0-50. Scores in the 80s are very good and in the 90s are exceptional.
Tie-down roping is a rodeo event that features a calf and a mounted cowboy. A calf is moved through a chute with spring-loaded doors. A 28-foot rope is fastened around the calf’s neck, which is used to ensure that the calf gets a head start. The calf roper is on the other side of the chute. The calf roper is behind a taut rope fastened with an easily broken string, which is fastened to the rope on the chute holding the calf. When the roper is ready he calls for the calf and the chute man trips a lever opening the doors. The freed calf breaks out running. When the calf reaches the rope in front of him, it pops off and simultaneously releases the barrier for the roper. The roper must throw his rope in a loop around the calf’s neck. Once the rope is around the calf’s neck, the roper signals the horse to stop suddenly while he simultaneously steps off the horse and runs to the calf. The horse will back away from the calf to maintain a steady pull on the rope. When the roper reaches the calf he picks it up and drops the calf on its side. Most calves weight 200-300 pounds. Once the calf is on the ground the roper ties three of the calf’s legs together with a pigging string in a half-hitch knot.
This event features the ladies of rodeo and their fast horses. This is the only rodeo event with times narrowed down to 1/100th of a second. Contestants make their way around tree barrels set in a cloverleaf pattern. Horses come in at full speed and make a tight turn around either the left or right barrel first. The horse and rider team then make their way around each of the other two barrels, before ‘heading home’ full speed down the middle and back out the gate. Tight turns and fast running horses are the key to beating the competition in this heart-racing event.
Bull riders ride against the clock, attempting to remain on a bucking bull for eight seconds. Judges watch for good body position and other factors, including use of the free area and spurring action. Half of the score in bull riding is determined by the contestant’s performance and the other half is based on the animal’s efforts. A bull rider will be disqualified for touching the animal, himself or his equipment with his free hand.