What Happens at a Rodeo...

a rodeo isn’t a rodeo without a pre-show


Roughstock events, as the name implies, are rough!  Roughstock events pit man against beast in the most elemental of contests!  Imagine a thousand pounds of bull or horse leaping into the air and a mortal human being hanging on with one hand.  Eight seconds may not seem long to you, but to that cowboy, eight seconds can seem like a lifetime!  If you don’t believe me, give the mechanical bull a try!  You’ll appreciate what the cowboys do and you won’t run the risk of getting stepped on or gored when you fall off!  Roughstock events include bareback riding (horse), saddle bronc riding (horse), and bull riding.  

Roughstock events are scored based on the cowboy’s performance and the animal’s performance.  Two judges rate the performance.  They can each score up to 25 points for the cowboy and 25 points for the animal.  The judges scores are combined.  A perfect score is 100 points.  A cowboy can ride well, but end up with an animal that doesn’t have much bucking action and receive a low score.  Sometimes, if the horse or bull does not provide enough action for the cowboy to show off his skills, the cowboy may get a chance to draw again and ride a different animal.

Bareback Riding

In bareback riding the only thing between the cowboy and the ground is the horse and a thin strap of leather that the cowboy hangs on to with one hand.  If the other hand touches the horse, himself, or anything else, he is disqualified.  In Bareback Riding, a cowboy must “mark out” his horse, meaning that he must exit the bucking chute with his spurs set above the horse’s shoulders and hold them there until the horse’s front feet hit the ground as it leaps out of the chute!  If he doesn’t keep those spurs up for long enough, he is disqualified.  A bummer if he is counting on this ride for his next paycheck!

Saddle Bronc Riding

Saddle Bronc Riding is similar to Bareback Riding, except the horse has a saddle and halter on.  Now, just because there is a saddle and a bit of leather attached to the horse’s head, don’t think it’s easy!  It’s not! These horses are bred for their athletic ability.  They are strong, agile and fast and they would really rather not have that cowboy on their back!  If the horse jumps in a spectacular manner, it will earn a high score.  If the horse is a bit too spectacular, it’s score doesn’t matter much to the cowboy because he will hit the dirt!  If he can stay on for the full 8 seconds, the cowboy might go home with a bit more green in his pockets.  Who you root for is up to you.  I’ve seen fans root for the horse, and I have seen them root for the cowboy.  If you like what you see, don’t be afraid to hoot and holler – that’s what the good fans do!


Bull Riding 

It’s not as easy as it looks, and it doesn’t look easy!  Staying on the back of a bull that would rather gore you than be ridden is an extreme sport!  This is the event that brings everyone back to their seats – well, not actually to their seats, because everyone stands.  It is impossible to sit demurely in your seat while the bulls are bucking.  It’s much too  [bulls] exciting.  You always know when the bull riding starts.  There is electricity in the air and there is no thunderstorm in sight! No matter where you are on the rodeo grounds, better run back to the stands, the epitome of action is about to begin!  This is 8 seconds that you don’t want to miss.  Bull riding is the last event of the rodeo, except for July 5th when we do our Firecracker Bull Ride…  Nothing but bulls!  Nothing but heart stopping action!  If you don’t believe me, come see for yourself!

The Timed Events

Barrel Racing

In barrel racing, a cowgirl and her horse run a clover leaf pattern around barrels as fast as they can without tipping over any barrels.  If a barrel is tipped a penalty is assessed and time is added to the clock.  This is bad news in a sport where the winner’s margin might be one hundredth of a second!  Barrel racing combines the horse’s athletic ability and the horsemanship skills of the rider.  The horse must be fast, intelligent, athletic and well trained.  A successful barrel horse is very valuable and can sell for $60,000.

Steer Wrestling

In steer wrestling, a cowboy chases a steer, leaps off his galloping horse, grabs the steer by the horns, and wrestles it to the ground.  Once all four legs of the steer are off the ground, the timer stops.  If the cowboy’s horse crosses the starting line before the bull a ten second time penalty is added. The cowboy who can wrestle the steer to the ground the fastest is the winner!  As you might imagine, since there are long sharp horns involved, steer wrestling is the most dangerous of the timed events!  Ladies and gents, do not try this at home!










Team Roping

In team roping, two cowboys or cowgirls on horseback work together to capture a steer. An interesting fact is that cowboys originally developed this technique on working ranches where it was necessary to capture and restrain a full-grown steer.The first roper is called the header.  As the name implies, the job of this person is to rope the front of the steer, usually the horns.  Then the second roper, known as the heeler, ropes the steer’s hind feet.  Both ropers back their horses until the ropes are tight and the steer stops moving.  At that point, the clock stops.  There is a 5 second penalty for roping only 1 hind leg and a 10 second penalty for breaking the barrier (the cowboy equivalent of a false start). The fastest team wins!

Tie Down Roping

In tie down roping the cowboy must rope a calf from horseback and then dismount and restrain the calf by tying three legs together. The calf has to remain tied for 6 seconds. This event originated on ranches where cowboys needed to catch calves for branding or medical treatment.  Ranch hands took pride in the speed they could rope and tie calves and eventually what was work turned into contests with prize money at stake!  Timing in this event is critical.  Often, the cowboy will gallop  [tiedown] his horse as soon as the calf leaves the chute, but is he crosses the line too soon, he gets a “cowboy speeding ticket.”  Nobody likes a speeding ticket, including the cowboy who gets ten seconds added to his time.  Those ten seconds mean going from getting a paycheck to going home with nothing!  Top professial ropers can tie a calf in seven seconds.  The world record is six seconds.  That’s mighty fast!