Although barrel racing may look less harrowing than some other rodeo events, it certainly is not for the faint-hearted.
The horsemanship skills and competitive drive in this fast and furious event make it a crowd favorite.
In barrel racing, the contestant enters the arena at full speed on a sprinting American Quarter Horse.
As they start the pattern, the horse and rider trigger an electronic eye that starts the clock. Then the racer rides a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels positioned in the arena, and sprints back out of the arena, tripping the eye and stopping the clock as she leaves.
The contestant can touch or even move the barrels, but receives a five-second penalty for each barrel that is overturned. With the margin of victory measured in hundredths of seconds, knocking over one barrel spells disaster for a barrel racing competitor
Women's Professional Barrel Racing Compeition
Unlike the other roughstock contestants, bull riders are not required to spur.
No wonder. It's usually impressive enough just to remain seated for eight seconds on an animal that may weigh more than a ton and is as quick as he is big.
Upper body control and strong legs are essential to riding bulls. The rider tries to remain forward, or "over his hand," at all times. Leaning back could cause him to be whipped forward when the bull bucks.
Judges watch for good body position and other factors, including use of the free arm and spurring action. Although not required, spurring will add points to a rider's score.
As in all the riding events, 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.
Bareback riding, developed in the rodeo arena many years ago, consistently produces some of the wildest action in the sport.
A bareback rider begins his ride with his feet placed above the break of the horse's shoulder. If the cowboy's feet are not in the correct position when the horse hits the ground on its first jump out of the chute, the cowboy has failed to "mark out" the horse properly and is disqualified.
Throughout the eight-second ride, the cowboy must grasp the rigging (a handhold made of leather and rawhide) with only one hand.
Optimum spurring action begins with the rider in control, his heels at the horse's neck. He then pulls his feet, toes turned outward, to the horse's withers until the cowboy's feet are nearly touching the bareback rigging.
A rider is disqualified if he touches his equipment, himself or the animal with his free hand.
The rider is judged on his control during the ride and on his spurring technique. The score also is based on the rider's "exposure" to the strength of the horse.
In addition, the horse's performance accounts for half the total score.
Bareback Bronc Riding
Saddle Bronc Riding
Rodeo's "classic" event, saddle bronc riding, has roots that run deep in the history of the Old West. Ranch hands would often gather and compete among themselves to see who could display the best style while riding wild horses. It was from this early competition that today's event was born.
Each rider must begin his ride with his feet over the bronc's shoulders to give the horse the advantage. A rider who synchronizes his spurring action with the animal's bucking efforts will receive a high score. Other factors considered in the scoring are the cowboy's control throughout the ride, the length of his spurring stroke and how hard the horse bucks.
Model spurring action begins with the rider's feet far forward on the bronc's point of shoulder, sweeping to the back of the saddle, or "cantle," as the horse bucks. The rider then snaps his feet back to the horse's neck a split second before the animal's front feet hit the ground.
Disqualification results if, prior to the buzzer which sounds after eight seconds, the rider touches the animal, himself or his equipment with his free hand, if either foot slips out of a stirrup, if he drops the bronc rein, or if he fails to have his feet in the proper "mark out" position at the beginning of the ride.
Team roping is professional rodeo’s only true team event. It requires precise timing and anticipation between the header and heeler.
The header’s job is to rope the steer around the horns, neck or a horn-neck combination, then turn the steer to the left so that the heeler can ride in and rope both of the steer’s hind legs.
The clock starts when the ropers leave their respective boxes, and it stops when their ropes are taught and their horses face each other. A 5-second penalty is assessed if the heeler catches only one leg. The team receives a 10-second penalty if the header fails to give the steer its allotted head start.
Wrestling a steer requires more than brute strength. The successful steer wrestler, or bulldogger, is strong, to be sure, but he also understands the principles of leverage.
The steer wrestler on horseback starts behind a barrier, and begins his chase after the steer has been given a head start. If the bulldogger leaves too soon and breaks the barrier, he receives a 10-second penalty.
The steer wrestler is assisted by a hazer, another cowboy on horseback, tasked with keeping the steer running in a straight line.
When the bulldogger's horse pulls even with the steer, he eases down the right side of the horse and reaches for the steer's horns. After grasping the horns, he digs his heels into the dirt. As the steer slows, the cowboy turns the animal, lifts up on its right horn and pushes down with his left hand.
After the catch, the steer wrestler must either bring the steer to a stop or change the direction of the animal's body before the throw, or he is disqualified. The clock stops when the steer is on his side with all four legs pointing the same direction.
Tie Down Roping
Like bronc riding, tie down roping is an event born on the ranches of the Old West. Sick calves were roped and tied down for medical treatment.
Today, success in tie down roping depends largely on the teamwork between a cowboy and his horse. The luck of the draw is also a factor. A feisty calf that runs fast or kicks hard can foil a roper's finest effort.
After the calf is given a head start, horse and rider give chase. The contestant ropes the calf, then dismounts and runs to the animal.
After catching and flanking the calf, the cowboy ties any three of the animal's legs together using a "pigging string" he carries in his teeth until needed. If the calf is not standing when the contestant reaches it, the cowboy must allow the animal to stand, then flank it.
When the cowboy completes his tie, he throws his hands in the air as a signal to the judge. He then remounts his horse and allows the rope to become slack. The run is declared invalid if the calf kicks free within six seconds.