The Bareback Bronc Riding contest is one of the most physically demanding events in rodeo! Each contestant hangs onto the horse using only a custom fitted handhold made of rawhide and leather that looks much like a suitcase handle! The cowboy must ride a bucking horse for 8 seconds in order to register a qualified ride, however to do that he must hold on to a wild bucking bronco that weighs 1300 pounds with only his finger tips! After the 8 seconds has been completed a horn will sound indicating the ride has been completed and the "pickup men" will ride alongside the horse to assist the cowboy in his dismounting to his feet and safety.
Saddle Bronc Riding
Often referred to as the 'Classic event of Rodeo' since this is the common practice of the American cowboy when he attempted to break horses for working the range. The cowboy in this event rides a specially fitted, regulation bronc saddle. He holds onto the 'swells' of his saddle with his thighs while lifting on a single rein with one hand to keep him down in the saddle. Aside from getting bucked off before the eight seconds, a contestant can also be disqualified for touching the horse or his equipment with his free hand during his ride. The cowboy gets higher marks for moving his legs from back to front, keeping in time with the horse. When done perfectly correct, the rhythm of the cowboy and bucking horse look like poetry in motion...but when things go bad, cowboys can be launched upwards of twenty feet!
In this event, a cowboy rides full speed on a horse and leaps through the air to wrestle a steer to the ground! Starting behind a barrier, the steer wrestler rides along the left side of the running steer. He then slides off his horse, grabbing the steer by the horns. After attempting to slow down or turn the steer, the steer wrestler uses leverage, strength and technique to wrestle it to the ground. The clock stops when the steer is lying on its side with all four legs pointing the same direction. A 'hazer' is a helper chosen by the steer wrestler to assist in keeping the steer in position in preparation for the contestant's dismount.
This is the only team event in rodeo and requires two cowboys working together to rope and stretch a steer which was required on the open range to doctor and brand cattle. The 'header' begins in the left-hand box when the action begins. The steer runs into the arena and is roped by the horns. After the catch is made, the header 'dallies' or wraps the tail of his rope around his saddle horn and turns the steer to the left. The 'heeler', who starts in the right box and trails along beside the steer until the header turns the steer, then moves in behind the steer and ropes the back feet. The event is judged on how fast the steer can be roped by both cowboys.
Both the horse and the rider must display their skills in this event which was required on the open range to doctor and brand cattle. The horse must be able to catch the speeding calf, stop on a dime, and keep the rope taught. But the cowboy displays his skill too by roping a running calf, jumping off his horse, running down the rope to the calf and speedily tying it down with a pigging string. Three legs must be tied, at which time the cowboy throws his arms in the air to show the judge he is finished and the clock stops. The rider then goes back to his horse, remounts and loosens off the rope. If the calf does not free himself from the leg tie in six seconds, the roper's time will count.
Barrel Racing & Junior Barrel Racing
The Barrel Racing event is one of the crowd favourites! This event demonstrates both the athleticism of the rider and the true speed of the American Quarter Horse. In this event, a cowgirl races into the arena at full speed on a sprinting horse going about 70 Km/h. As she enters the arena she races past a timer line and triggers an electronic eye that starts the clock to determine the speed of the run. Then the racer blazes through a cloverleaf pattern around three steel barrels and sprints back out of the arena, tripping the eye and stopping the clock on her way out to finish the run. If the contestant overturns a barrel she receives a 5 second penalty. The tempo, speed and crowd makes this event very, very exciting!
Breakaway roping can be the fastest event in rodeo and is a skillful event requiring perfect co-ordination between the roper and trained horse. Starting from behind a barrier and thus giving the calf a head start, the horse quickly places the roper into a position for a throw with a lariat rope. The horse's ability to hold the position of the calf in order for the roper to throw is essential to the event. Once the catch is made, the horse slides to a halt and the rope breaks away from the saddle horn while remaining around the calf. A piece of coloured cloth is attached to the end of the rope and will indicate when the rope has broken away to assist the judges timing the break. Breakaway roping is available only for pretty cowgirls and fast horses!
Junior Bull & Steer Riding
The future looks bright for rodeo's rough stock event. Watch closely as you are witnessing tomorrow's champions in action! These 'Second/Third Generation' cowboys are competing on very agile and feisty steers to have the skills they will require once they graduate to the mean and nasty bull-riding event. A bull rope, glove, resin, spurs, chaps, Kevlar vest and hockey helmet for protection are the gear they require. An eight second ride with their free hand in the air will give the cowboy a maximum total score of 100, based on the same scoring system used in bull riding. Aside for the obvious physical agility, these youngsters will require a huge dose of courage and your applause to see them through!
Bull Riding is the most dangerous sport in the world and consists of a cowboy trying to ride a 2000 pound bucking bull for 8 seconds! Cowboys in this event must have the reflexes and the body control of a gymnast and the heart of a lion if they hope to be successful. A bull rider stays on by holding onto a small flat braided rope. Using only his grip, he keeps that rope tight around the girth of the bull, just behind the front legs. Once the rider is unseated, whether by his choice or the bull's sheer athleticism, bullfighters move in to distract the bull, hopefully allowing the cowboy to get to safety without getting hooked or trampled. This event demonstrates not only the strength of the cowboy, but also the balance, will and determination of a true modern day gladiator!