Rodeo Event Descriptions
Steer wrestling (aka bulldogging) is the quickest of the rodeo events.
It requires strength, speed and timing. It is a timed event and cowboys compete against each other
and the clock. Bulldoggers start out in the box (3-sided at the end of the arena).
The steer is loaded into the chute. As soon as the cowboy nods his head, the steer is released.
The steer wrestler catches up to the steer as quickly as possible, with help from his hazer,
another cowboy riding on the other side of the steer to keep him running straight.
The wrestler jumps off of his horse and grabs the steer, turning it flat onto the dirt and
thus ending the run. The
amount of time it takes him to complete this could be as fast as just 4 seconds.
Saddle Bronc Riding
This event grew naturally out of ranch cowboys breaking wild broncos in the late 1800s
to use as working cow horses. Modern saddle bronc riding has a few modifications, mainly in
equipment. Saddle Bronc saddles are lightweight and have no saddle horn. Cowboys use a
long hack rein, attached to a halter on the horse’s head. Saddle bronc riding relies less on strength
and more on timing, finesse and skill of the rider. It's a very hard event to master.
Riders must hold their boots over the horses shoulder at the first jump from the chute
(called the markout rule) and they must stay on for 8 seconds. The cowboy spurs from the front
shoulder of the horse back to the skirt of the saddle in an arcing motion. He must constantly lift
on the hack rein to keep his seat in the saddle. With all bronc events, a fleece flank strap is
buckled around the flank of the animal, just snug enough to tickle. The animals, professional athletes
in their own right, feel the
fleece and know it’s bucking time!
Bull Riding is the most dangerous of all the rodeo events.
Bull riders say, "It's not if you get hurt, it's when." As with bareback riding and saddle
bronc, bull riders ride with one hand and cannot touch the bull with the free hand. Scoring
distributes 100 points maximum, with half the score dependent on the rider’s performance and
the other half on the animal. Bull riders hang on to a thickly braided rope with a cowbell attached.
The cowbell acts as a weight, allowing the rope to safely fall off the bull when
the ride is over. Cowboys can spur for extra points, but just staying on the bull
for 8 seconds is the main
Team roping is the only team event in rodeo. Like other rodeo events team roping grew
out of the ranch chores of the past. Larger cattle would have to be constrained for branding
and doctoring by two ropers due to their strength and size. Today, two cowboys
(known as the header and the heeler) work together to rope the horns and the back
feet of a steer. The team that finishes the fastest, wins. If they only catch one back leg,
they receive a 5-second penalty to their time and if they break the barrier strip-the head
start line for the steer,
they are penalized 10 seconds.
Bareback riding is a rough and explosive rodeo event and predictably the most
physically demanding of all the rodeo events. To compete, the cowboy rides with
no rein or saddle, but instead a leather rigging, which looks like a heavy piece of
leather with a suitcase style handle. Riding one handed, the cowboy cannot touch
the horse with his free hand and, in this event, he will lean way back onto the haunches
of the horse for position. As with saddle bronc riding the mark out rule is in effect ,
they must have their spurs set above the shoulders when the horse jumps out of the chute
or they will be disqualified. The cowboys spur the horse from shoulder to rigging, to make a
qualified ride of 8 seconds.
As in saddle bronc and bull riding, the animal and the rider are scored.
Tie-down roping is the classic old west ranch chore. Like the steer wrestlers and team ropers,
tie-down ropers start in the box ready to compete. The calf is released and the cowboy must ride
his horse out of the box quickly, rope it and then dismount. He then sprints to the calf and lays
it on its side, called flanking. With a pigging string, usually held in the cowboy's teeth, he’ll tie up
any three of the calf's legs. The clock stops when the cowboy throws up his hands.
Immediately the roper remounts his horse, puts slack in his rope by walking his horse
forward and waits 6 seconds for the calf to struggle free. If the calf gets free of the
pigging string, the cowboy gets a “no time” much to his disappointment. Tie-down roping is
very competitive and takes an extremely trained horse, usually a Quarter Horse, that knows
how to slide to a stop and hold just the right tension on the calf to allow the roper to tie
the calf’s legs. Watch the horses work and be amazed at their abilities! A good rope horse
can cost $75,000 or more and
many ropers use each other’s horses at different events.
Calf roping is an authentic ranch skill that originated from working cowboys.
Once the calf has been roped, the cowboy dismounts and runs down the length of
the rope to the calf. When the calf is on the ground, the cowboy ties three legs together
with a six-foot pigging string. Calves are given a head start, and if the cowboy’s horse leaves
the box too soon, a barrier breaks and a 10-second penalty is added to the roper’s time.
In all of the timed events, a
fraction of a second makes the difference between winning and losing.
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