Rodeo is made up of a wide range of riding and roping events that tests its competitor’s strength, skill, and durability.
Find out more about each event below.
Bull riding is the most popular rodeo event, and also the most dangerous.
During the event, a loose rope straps the competitor’s hand to a bull that holds a tonne of explosive power. The rider never knows what the animal beneath him is going to do next, and so they must draw upon their sharpest mental and physical abilities when trying to conquer this twisting tornado.
To keep their position and balance, a bull rider is constantly grabbing for new holds with his feet and continually pulling up on the rope. The more powerfully a bull bucks and the faster he spins, the more points the ride is worth.
From the moment the gate swings open, and the horse and rider explode from the chute, both must perform exceptionally if the cowboy is to win. A suitcase-like handle is attached to the top of the leather rigging, and cinched around the horse’s middle.
The contestant grips this handle with one hand, keeping the other free and high in the air. Ideally bareback riders want to try to spur the horse on each jump, reaching as far forward as they can with their feet, then jerking their spurs upwards towards the rigging.
Considered the classic rodeo event, this competition is definitely not for beginners.
There is a reason this event is for the most seasoned of riders. The instinctive reactions required to keep in the stirrups, the ability to synchronise with the bronc’s movement and sense what the horse will do next, make this event one with no substitute for years of experience. And because there is nothing solid to hold onto, a rider can only stay in the saddle through timing and balance. The proven rider deliberately matches their spurring strides with the bucking bronc’s rhythm beneath them, making the whole ride appear smooth.
An event that not only requires speed and agility, but also physical size and strength.
When a man drops from the side of a galloping horse onto a running steer and brings him to the ground, spectators have the opportunity to see athletic skill overcome heavily weighted odds. In keeping with the supportive character of rodeo, the steer wrestler is allowed a partner called a ‘hazer’ to aid him in lining up the charging steer.
This assistance helps to assure the perfect placement of the steer and horse before the cowboy dismounts. The time stops after the contestant has caught and flipped the steer’s head, and all four feet are out in the same direction.
An event that shows the grace and beauty of true horsemanship along with the athletic skills of both horse and rider.
Roping is a race against time, with the seconds counted in decimal points. To win, a horse and rider must work together in precision teamwork. The contest begins when the calf is released from the chute, with the rider and horse chasing behind. A good horse will carry its rider in perfect accord with every move of the calf and when the rope is thrown will stoop on a dime, back up so the rope is pulled taut allowing the roper to dismount, run down the rope, flip the calf and tie any three legs with the ‘piggin string’, before signaling ‘all clear’ with his hands in the air. The rider must remount his horse and slacken the rope to prove the tie, which must then hold for six seconds.
An event that owes its very existence to the work of the everyday working cowboy.
On the open range, it is often necessary to catch an animal, in order to attend to it, or brand it, and that is where the first team roping took place. In rodeo competition today the header starts the time when he leaves the box in pursuit of the runaway steer. His job is to rope the steer’s horns, take a dally wrapping the loose end of the rope around the saddle horn and turn the steer away from his partner.
With great skill and accurate timing the heeler then ropes the steer’s hind legs and takes his dally. Then both header and heeler face their horses towards the steer, time stops. Because of the excellent teamwork involved, this event is a favourite of many.
The all-female event that tests the speed and agility of both cowgirl and horse.
The horses ridden in this event are highly trained and extremely athletic, matching their speed and turns to the cues given by the riders. The clock is set in motion when the girl and the horse cross the starting line and is stopped when she recrosses the line after completing her run. The colourful rider and her mount must make two turns in one direction and one in the other around the three barrels. The barrels are set in a triangular pattern, a prescribed distance apart.
Winners are on many occasions determined by differences of hundredths of a second. So the five-second penalty for an overturned barrel can be devastating. This event is certainly one of sheer elegance and precise timing.
Another all-female event which is the counterpart of calf roping.
This event differs from roping in that the cowgirl does not have to rope the calf, dismount the horse and tie the calf’s legs. Instead, the rope is tied to the saddle horn with a ribbon. When the calf is roped, the horse pulls up and the calf keeps running until the rope is taut, which then ‘breaks’ the rope from the saddle horn and the time is taken. This event is contested as hotly by these cowgirls as by the men in the roping.
Another all-female event which is the counterpart of steer wrestling.
In this event, rather than having to slide over the side of the galloping horse and stop the steer, the cowgirl has to catch up to the steer and remove the ribbon attached to its back. Similar to steer wrestling, the cowgirl is allowed a ‘hazer’ to aid her in lining up the charging steer, helping her to line up the steer perfectly to allow her to remove the ribbon. Time is taken when she removes the ribbon from the steer and raises it high over her head.
Make your next event a success by affiliating with the nation’s largest non-profit equine sporting organisation. Gain access to a dedicated competitor base with over 7,000 members Australia-wide, as well as extensive resources and online event management systems.