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Rodeo
101

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New to rodeo? Here is what you can expect.

Bareback riding

Bareback riders endure more abuse, suffer more injuries, and carry away more long-term damage than all other rodeo cowboys.

To stay aboard the horse, a bareback rider uses a rigging made of leather and constructed to meet PRCA safety specifications. The rigging, which resembles a suitcase handle on a strap, is placed atop the horse’s withers and secured with a cinch. As the bronc and rider burst from the chute, the rider must have both spurs touching the horse’s shoulders until the horse’s feet hit the ground after the initial move from the chute. This is called “marking out.” If the cowboy fails to do this, they are disqualified.

As the bronc bucks, the rider pulls their knees up, rolling their spurs up the horse’s shoulders. As the horse descends, the cowboy straightens their legs, returning their spurs over the point of the horse’s shoulders in anticipation of the next jump.

Making a qualified ride and earning a money-winning score requires more than just strength. A bareback rider is judged on spurring technique, the degree to which their toes remain turned out while spurring, and willingness to take whatever might come during the ride.

STEER WRESTLING

The steer wrestler, also known as a “bulldogger,” aims to use strength and technique to wrestle a steer to the ground as quickly as possible.

As with tie-down and team ropers, the bulldogger starts on horseback in a box. A breakaway rope barrier is attached to the steer and stretched across the open end of the box. The steer gets a head start determined by the arena's size. The barrier is released when the steer reaches the advantage point, and the bulldogger takes off in pursuit. If the bulldogger breaks the barrier before the steer reaches his head start, a 10-second penalty is assessed.

A perfect combination of strength, timing, and technique is necessary for success in the lightning-quick event of steer wrestling. In addition to strength, timing and balance are other skills critical to success in steer wrestling. When the cowboy reaches the steer, he slides down and off the right side of his galloping horse, hooks his right arm around the steer’s right horn, grasps the left horn with his left hand, and, using strength and leverage, slows the animal and wrestles it to the ground. His work isn’t complete until the steer is on its side, with all four feet pointing in the same direction.

To catch the sprinting steer, the cowboy uses a “hazer,” another mounted cowboy who gallops his horse along the right side of the steer and keeps it from veering away from the bulldogger.

TEAM ROPING

Team roping, the only true team event in Pro Rodeo, requires close cooperation and timing between two highly skilled ropers – a header and a heeler – and their horses. The key to success? Hard work and endless practice. Team roping partners must perfect their timing as a team and with their respective horses.

Like tie-down ropers and steer wrestlers, team ropers start from the boxes on each side of the chute from which the steer enters the arena. The steer gets a head start determined by the length of the arena.

One end of a breakaway barrier is attached to the steer and stretched across the open end of the header’s box. When the steer reaches his advantage point, the barrier is released, and the header takes off in pursuit, with the heeler trailing slightly further behind. The ropers are assessed a 10-second penalty if the header breaks the barrier before the steer completes his head start. Some rodeos use heeler barriers too.

The header ropes first and must make one of three legal catches on the steer around both horns, around one horn, and the head or around the neck. Any other catch by the header is considered illegal, and the team is disqualified. After the header makes his catch, he turns the steer to the left and exposes the steer’s hind legs to the heeler. The heeler then attempts to rope both hind legs. If he catches only one foot, the team is assessed a five-second penalty. After the cowboys catch the steer, the clock is stopped when there is no slack in their ropes, and their horses face one another.

SADDLE BRONC RIDING

Saddle bronc riding is the rodeo’s classic event, complementing and contrasting the wilder spectacles of bareback and bull riding.

One of the similarities shared between saddle bronc and bareback riding is the rule that riders in both events must mark out their horses on the first jump from the chute. To properly mark out his horse, the saddle bronc rider must have both heels touching the animal above the point of its shoulders when it makes its first jump from the chute. If the rider misses his mark, he receives no score. While a bareback rider has a rigging to hold onto, the saddle bronc rider has only a thick rein attached to his horse’s halter. Using one hand, the cowboy tries to stay securely seated in his saddle. He is disqualified if he touches any part of the horse or body with his free hand.

Judges score the horse’s bucking action, the cowboy’s control of the horse, and the cowboy’s spurring action. While striving to keep his toes turned outward, the rider spurs from the points of the horse’s shoulders to the back of the saddle. The rider must maintain that action throughout the eight-second ride to score well. While the bucking ability of the horse is quite naturally built into the scoring system, a smooth, rhythmic ride is sure to score better than a wild, uncontrolled effort.