Rodeo Events Explained
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Rodeo Events Explained

Rodeo 101

Professional rodeo action consists of two types of competitions - roughstock events and timed events.

In the roughstock events: bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding, a contestant's score is equally dependent upon their performance and the animal's performance. To earn a qualified score, the contestant, while using only one hand, must stay aboard a bucking horse or bull for eight seconds. If the rider touches the animal, themselves or any of their equipment with their free hand, they are disqualified.

In saddle bronc and bareback riding, a contestant must "mark out" their horse; that is, they must exit the chute with their spurs set above the horse's shoulders and hold them there until the horse's front feet hit the ground after the initial jump out of the chute. Failing to do so results in disqualification.

During the regular season, two judges each score a contestant's qualified ride by awarding 0 to 25 points for the rider's performance and 0 to 25 points for the animal's effort. The judges' scores are then combined to determine the contestant's score. A perfect score is 100 points.

In timed events: steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping, and barrel racing; cowboys and cowgirls at "the other end of the arena" compete against the clock, as well as against each other. A contestant's goal is to post the fastest time in his or her event. In steer wrestling and the roping events, calves and steers are allowed a head start. The competitor, on horseback, starts in a three-sided fenced area called a box. The fourth side opens into the arena.

A rope barrier is stretched across that opening and is tied to the calf or steer with a breakaway loop. Once the calf or steer reaches the head-start point - predetermined by the size of the arena - the barrier is automatically released. If a cowboy breaks that barrier, a 10-second penalty is added.

Rodeo Terms

Be in the know and sound like a pro.
  • Added money - purse money supplied by the rodeo committee. It is added to the entry fees to make up the total prize money.
  • Bareback Rigging - the only equipment a bareback rider has to help him ride. It is made of leather and resembles a suitcase strap. It is held on the horse's back with a cinch, just like a saddle.
  • Barrier - a rope stretched across the front of the box from which the roper or steer wrestler's horse emerges. This rope is attached to the steer or calf and allows the animal a head start.
  • Bronc Rein - rein attached to the horse's halter for balance while riding a saddle bronc.
  • Bull Rope - a flat braided rope used in bull riding as the only handhold for the bull rider. It is wrapped around the bull and then around the rider's hand.
  • Chute - the pen that holds the animal in order for the rider to get on and prepare for his ride.
  • Flank Strap - a fleece-lined leather strap that is placed behind the horse's rib cage in the flank area. A soft rope is used in the bull riding event. Flank straps are not fastened tightly and do not hurt the animals. If this strap is tightened too tight, the animal will refuse to buck.
  • Hazer - a cowboy who rides beside a steer on the opposite side of the steer wrestler. His job is to keep the steer running straight and close to the contestant's horse.
  • Pickup Man - a mounted cowboy who helps the rider off of a bronc when the ride is completed. The pickup man also removes the flank strap from the bronc and leads it out of the corral.
  • Re-Ride - another ride given to a bronc or bull rider when the first ride is ruled by judges as unsatisfactory. Reasons for granting a re-ride: being "fouled" on the chutes or the horse failing to buck hard enough to give the rider a fair chance.
  • Rank - a bull or bronc that is hard to ride.
  • Score - the length of the head start given to the steer or calf in the timed events.
  • Slack - a time, usually late at night or early in the morning, other than during the performance when the "extra" contestants compete in the rodeo. There are only 8-12 slots in each rodeo performance for each event, when more contestants enter than can compete in the performances, they can compete in the slack.

Did You Know...

  • The definition of 'rodeo' is a Spanish word meaning roundup.
  • The difference between Spanish rodeo and American rodeo is that the Spanish version focuses on style, while the American version focuses on speed.
  • The PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) has over 7000 members.
  • Over 127 PRCA cowboys have surpassed the million dollar mark in prize money at PRCA rodeos.
  • Today's rodeos are an offspring of the early Wild West shows that featured cowboys such as Buffalo Bill Cody.
  • The PRCA is the largest sanctioning organization with over 600 rodeos sanctioned yearly.
  • The average bucking horse or bull works less than 5 minutes per year in the arena.
  • The PRCA has 60 rules that govern the care and treatment of rodeo stock.
  • Bucking horses usually weigh from 1000 to 1500 pounds, and bulls up to 2000 pounds.
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