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The Least You Should Know About Rodeo

Updated on February 14, 2010

Cowboy hats, wranglers, cowboy boots, horses, bulls, and the sounds of cattle mixed with the roar of a crowd. The grand entry starts with horses and flags flying. It's rodeo time. In the crowd, fans sit at the edge of their seats in anticipation. Some are die hard rodeo fans who sit in the same seats every year. There are casual fans who enjoy the rodeo events. They might not be quite sure what exactly is going on in the arena, but it looks fun. Then there are the "I've never been to a rodeo" people. These are the fans who sit and watch and listen to every word the announcer says trying to make sense of it all. Here is the least you should know when going to a rodeo, so you can catch what's happening in the arena.

The Difference Between Timed Events and Roughstock Events

Rodeo is broken down into two types of events. A timed event, or a roughstock event. The timed events are just like they sound, a cowboy or cowgirl against the clock. The roughstock events are judged and scored.

Timed events are roping, steer wrestling, and barrel racing.

Roughtstock events are bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, and bull riding.

For now remember, timed events are timed and roughstock events are scored. Below you'll find more details about each event, but the least you should know is the difference between timed events and roughstock events.

Roughstock Riding

Bareback Riding:  Bareback Riding is a roughstock event, and is usually the first event at a rodeo. In Bareback Riding the cowboy rides a bucking horse. The cowboy and horse come out of a bucking chute. A bareback rigging is used in bareback riding. According to the Professional Rodeo Cowboy's Association, "To stay aboard the horse, a bareback rider uses a rigging made of leather and constructed to meet PRCA safety specifications. The rigging, which resembles a suitcase handle on a strap, is placed atop the horse's withers and secured with a cinch."

To qualify for a score:

The contestant must ride the horse for 8 seconds.

The contestant must "mark the horse out" which means the when the chute opens the cowboy must have his spurs touching the horses shoulder until the horse's feet touch the ground.

The contestant must not touch the horse with his free hand during the ride.

How a ride is scored:

After the contestant has qualified for a ride, two judges will score it. The best possible score is 100pts. Each judge gives a score between 0-25 on how the horse bucks, and 0-25 on how the cowboy rides.

Saddle Bronc Riding: Saddle Bronc riding is similar to Bareback riding as far as scoring, and qualifying. The difference is Saddle Bronc riders have a special saddle that they use, and they hold on to a thick rein that is attached to the horse's halter. The Saddle Bronc rider has one free hand that is in the air, and just like in Bareback riding the contestant can't touch the animal or the equipment with that free hand.

Bull Ridng: Bull riding is the third roughstock event. Bull Rider's qualify for their ride the same as the other two roughstock events, with one exception. Bull Riders do not follow the "mark out" rule. They must stay on for 8 seconds to qualify, and must not touch down with their free hand. They are scored the same by two judges, with the perfect score being 100. In Bull Riding the Cowboy gets on a bull in the bucking chute, and hangs on with a special rope, called a bull rope.

Roping and Steer Wrestling Events

The roping events will begin on the end of the arena that has a roping chute surrounded by two "boxes". The cowboy will back his horse up in the corner and when his horse is ready and the stock is ready he will nod his head. There is a rope barrier set up that allows the stock a headstart. Once the stock has gotten to the pre-determined point the barrier releases and the cowboy is free to chase it. If the cowboy leaves the box before that is released then he has "broken the barrier" and will get a 10 second penalty. That is pleny of time to cost the cowboy a lot of money.

The roping and steer wrestling events are:

Tie-Down Roping: This is an event with ranching roots for when a cowboy has to immobilize a sick or injured calf quickly. The cowboy ropes the calf and then ties three feet together. The tie must stay for six seconds or the cowboy receives a no-time.

Team Roping: This event has the same ranching roots as Tie-Down Roping. In this event there are two cowboys. A Header and a Heeler. The Header can rope the steer around both horns, around one horn and the head, or around the neck. After he ropes the steer he turns to the left and the heeler comes in and ropes the hind legs. If the heeler only catches one hind leg they receive a five second penalty. If the heeler misses then they receive a no-time.

Steer Wrestling: The Steer Wrestler doesn't use a rope. He is mounted on a horse and has a partner called a hazer. When the roping chute is opened and the steer runs out the hazer controls where the steer is going and the steer wrestler jumps off his running horse grabbing the steer to slow the steer down and then wrestle it to the ground.

How this helps you...

Okay, how in the world does this basic information about rodeo help you? Well, you won't have to tap the person sitting next to you at the rodeo every three seconds asking what's going on. You won't have to sit in the crowd and cheer just because everyone else is doing it. You will be able to tune out the walking rodeo encyclopedia sitting behind you explaining how the cowboys throw those lariats. (For the record call it a rope and not a lariat, please!) You'll be able to enjoy the rodeo with a little knowledge of what's going on!

By the way, if you're heading to a rodeo and can't decide what to wear the Hillbilly Chic hub can give you an idea of what's in style. (For the ladies anyway).


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    • profile image

      Karen Riedl 7 years ago

      Very nice post and very informative for explaining exactly what rodeo is.

    • betherann profile image

      Beth Morey 7 years ago from Montana

      You're right, it probably IS a requirement! I need to get on that...

    • rocknrodeogirl profile image

      rocknrodeogirl 7 years ago from The Columbia Gorge

      If you're in Montana now then you'll have to watch a rodeo...I'm not sure but I think it might be a requirement for living in that state, lol! ;) Thanks for reading!!

    • betherann profile image

      Beth Morey 7 years ago from Montana

      This is a great and very informative hub! I really enjoyed reading it. As a native east-coaster transplanted in Montana, I haven't had much exposure to rodeos. It's neat that the roping events are based on techniques and skills actually used on ranches.

    • rocknrodeogirl profile image

      rocknrodeogirl 8 years ago from The Columbia Gorge

      Thanks, Michael. I competed in Junior, High School, and College rodeos, and now I'm training my mare for barrels. It is a fun sport! =)

    • Michael Shane profile image

      Michael Shane 8 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

      Great Hub! I did a little rough stock in my younger days.

    • rocknrodeogirl profile image

      rocknrodeogirl 8 years ago from The Columbia Gorge

      Thank you! There is so much more to write about when it comes to rodeos, but I thought a "rodeo basics" would be helpful. =)

    • David Alan Carter profile image

      David Alan Carter 8 years ago

      Great hub and a great introduction to rodeo. It's all there. Definite thumbs up. --David