Rodeo has a unique quality of origin to which no other professional
sport can lay claim. It emerged from an industry... from the daily
routine and tasks of a low paying job with long hours performed by ranch
hands who came to know very well the animals with which they lived.
If it were any other kind of job, leisure hours might
have produced another kind of ball game rather than a recreation
involving the very animals one had already spent long hours tending. But
cowboying has always been more of a way of life than a job or an
opportunity to get rich.
Critics speak of an inherent cruelty in rodeo... that
rodeo can't exist without being cruel to animals... that there is
something in the very nature of rodeo that is harmful to animals. Those
kind of comments are contrary to a rodeo's origin.
Rodeo contests are divided into two categories:
Those which are scored by a judge... the rough stock
events of bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, and bull
Those which are timed for speed... cowgirls barrel
racing, steer wrestling, and the roping contests.
Riding broncs and roping calves are the events that were
born on Western ranches.
Being able to rope a calf or steer on the open range was
a necessary skill if an animal required attention.
Riding a bronky kind of horse was part of the territory,
as many horses were green broke at best.
The contests of riding and roping require only two
things of the horses and cattle... either to buck or to run, actions
that are natural.
If you think about all the different disciplines in
which horses are used... showing, racing, jumping, pleasure riding,
etc.... some kind of equipment is worn by the horse and something is
used to communicate instructions to the animal.
HOW TO WATCH A RODEO
Riding — The event is judged according to the
performances of both the rider and the bucking horse. It is a
single-handhold, eight-second ride which starts with the cowboy’s feet
held in a position over the break of the horse’s shoulders until the
horse’s front feet touch the ground first jump out of the chute. The
rider earns points maintaining upper body control while moving his feet
in a toes-turned-out rhythmic motion in time with the horse’s bucking
Steer Wrestling — This event was
originally called "bull dogging" and requires the cowboy to lean from
the running horse onto the back of a 600 pound steer, catch it behind
the horns, stop the steer’s forward momentum and wrestle it to the
ground with all four of its legs and head pointing the same direction.
The bulldogger is assisted by the hazer, who rides along the steer’s
right to keep the animal running straight.
Saddle Bronc Riding — Known as
rodeo’s classic event, saddle bronc riding is judged similarly to
bareback bronc riding but there are additional possibilities to being
disqualified; that is, losing a stirrup or dropping the thickly braided
rein that is attached to the horse’s halter. The cowboy sits on the
horse differently due to the saddle and rein, and the spurring motion
covers a different area of the horse. Saddle broncs are usually several
hundred pounds heavier than bareback horses and generally buck in a
Calf Roping — Calf roping is an
authentic ranch skill that originated from working cowboys. Once the
calf has been roped, the cowboy dismounts and runs down the length of
the rope to the calf. When the calf is on the ground, the cowboy ties
three legs together with a six-foot pigging string. Calves are given a
head start, and if the cowboy’s horse leaves the box too soon, a barrier
breaks and a 10-second penalty is added to the roper’s time. In all of
the timed events, a fraction of a second makes the difference between
winning and losing.
Barrel Racing — This event is a horse race with
turns. The cowgirl’s time begins as she rides her horse across the
starting line in the arena. She makes a run around three upright
barrels, which are in a cloverleaf pattern, and back to the starting
line where the clock stops. Tipping a barrel is permitted, but if it is
knocked to the ground, a five-second penalty is added to her time.
Team Roping — Team roping is the
only rodeo event that features two contestants. The team is made up of a
header and a heeler. The header ropes the horns, then dallies or wraps
his rope around his saddle horn and turns the steer to the left for the
other cowboy who ropes the heels. The heeler must throw a loop with
precision timing to catch both of the steer’s hind legs. The time clock
stops once both ropers have made a catch and brought the animals to a
stop, facing each other.
Bull Riding — Bull riders, who
might not weigh more than 150 pounds, place a flat braided rope around a
bull that weighs almost 2000 pounds. The bull rope is placed around the
animal, just behind its shoulders. It is then looped and threaded
through itself and the cowboy wraps it around his riding hand with only
his grip holding him in place. The rider relies on balance and leg
strength to make the eight-second buzzer. Look for bull riders to sit up
close to their bull ropes and to turn their toes out because rides are
judged on the riding style of the competitor and the bucking ability of