There are five standard rodeo events: bareback riding, saddle-bronc riding, bull riding, calf roping, and steer wrestling. Individual rodeos often stage other contests, such as team roping, steer roping, barrel racing and campdrafting, just to name a few.
In addition to the contests, most rodeos also feature entertainment acts, which usually include Western-style bands, trick-riding exhibitions, and experts performing rope tricks.
The riding of an unbroken horse without benefit of reins or saddle is an extremely dangerous feat. The bronco has only a surcingle around its barrel, and the cowboy may use only one hand to hold onto it. His other hand must be in the air at all times. When the horse leaves the chute, the rider must have both spurs in the animal's shoulders. He must stay on the horse for eight seconds, and he is judged on how much bucking his horse has done and penalized for insufficient spurring. If he draws a docile horse that refuses to buck, however, the judges will permit him to draw another mount. At the end of his eight-second ride, the cowboy is lifted from his mount by a pickup man on a horse. This is also a dangerous operation, because a mistake can result in the cowboy's falling between the two horses, where he could be trampled by both.
This event is similar to bareback riding, except that the bronco, or bronc, is saddled and reined. The rules are strict, however. The rider must keep both feet in the stirrups, he must keep the same hand in the air at all times, and he must not wrap the rein around his hand or hold onto the saddle for support. He is judged on form, on his ability to stay on the horse, and on the amount of bucking his horse does.
Since the wild and vicious Brahma bull was introduced into rodeos, bull riding has become a thrilling but very dangerous event. The rules are basically the same as for bareback riding. Brahmas have a tendency to turn on a thrown rider, and their long sharp horns can seriously injure or kill a fallen cowboy. To distract the bull, rodeo clowns rush into the arena when a rider is thrown and lure the bull away from the cowboy.
In calf roping the cowboy is judged on the amount of time it takes him to rope the calf, dismount, and tie any three of its feet. While the man is tying the animal, his horse keeps the rope taut by facing the calf and backing up when the rope slackens. The event requires a skillful cowboy and a well-trained horse. Quarter horses are chiefly used because they are extremely fast and sure-footed.
In steer wrestling, also known as bulldogging, the mounted cowboy races alongside the wild steer. At an opportune moment he leaps from his horse, grabs the steer by the horns, and wrestles him to the ground. He is judged on the length of time it takes him to down the steer.
What's your favorite event to watch? (Or even participate in?)