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Rodeo 101

Bareback Riding

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The cowboys ride one handed and cannot touch themselves or the horse with their free hand. The cowboys spur the horse from shoulder to rigging, trying to make a qualified ride of 8 seconds. Cowboys are judged on their control and spurring technique, and the horses are judged on their power, speed, and agility. A good score in the bareback riding is in the mid 80’s.

Steer Wrestling

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Steer wrestling is a timed event, and cowboys compete against each other and the clock. Bulldoggers start out in the box just like the tie-down and team ropers. The barrier is placed across the box and the steer is loaded into the roping chute. As soon as the cowboy nods his head the steer is released and he charges after it on his horse. The steer wrestler catches up to the steer as quickly as possible and then leans over, jumps off of his horse and grabs the steer by its head. A winning time is usually between 3 to 4 seconds, but these big boys keep getting faster and faster. Breaking the barrier in the steer wrestling results in a 10 second penalty which effectively puts you out of the money. The bulldogger then plants his feet and tosses the steer onto its side, thereby stopping the clock.

Team Roping

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Team roping is the only team event in rodeo. The two cowboys involved in team roping have unique goals. The first, known as the header, does just what the name implies and ropes the head of the cattle. The other cowboy, known as the heeler, ropes the heels or legs. The header is the first out trying to rope the head as quickly as possible without breaking the barrier. Once the catch is made the header dallies and turns the steer left. This opens up the way for the heeler to work his magic and rope the legs. The clock is stopped when there is no slack in both ropes and the horses face each other. If the barrier is broken a 10 second penalty is added to the time. Also, if the heeler manages to catch only one leg, then a 5 second penalty is added. In addition to these penalties there are only 3 legal catches that the header can make. These are: both horns – one horn and the head – the neck.

Saddle Bronc Riding

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As with bareback riding, the mark out rule is in effect. The cowboy spurs from the front of the horse, back to the skirt of the saddle in an arcing motion. The cowboy must constantly lift on the hack rein to keep his seat in the saddle. Scoring is the same as in all the roughstock events with 1-25 points given to the cowboy and 1-25 points for the animal by each of the two judges. Cowboys are judged on control, spur motion, and timing. Saddle broncs are judged on their bucking ability. A good score in the saddle bronc riding is in the high 80’s.

Tie-down Roping

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Like the steer wrestlers and team ropers, tie-down ropers start in the box ready to compete. The calf is released and the cowboy must rope it as quickly as possible. As soon as a catch is made the cowboy dismounts, sprints to the calf and tosses it on its side, which is called flanking. With a small rope known as a pigging string, usually held in the cowboy’s teeth, any three of the calf’s legs are tied securely. Time stops when the cowboy throws up his hands. After the tie, the roper remounts his horse, puts slack in his rope and waits 6 seconds for the calf to struggle free. If it does, the cowboy receives a no time and is effectively disqualified from the round. If the calf remains tied the cowboy receives his time. As in the other timed events, if the roper breaks the barrier he receives a 10 second penalty added to his time. . Horses in the tie-down roping play a major role in the success of the competitor. Horses are taught to know when to start walking backward thereby keeping the rope taught and allowing the cowboy to do their work on the other end.

Barrel Racing

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For the barrel racing event, the arena is cleared and three barrels are set up at different marked locations. The riders then enter the arena at full speed, quickly rounding each barrel in a cloverleaf pattern and then exiting where they entered. A stopwatch or timer is used registering down to a hundredth of a second. The riders steer their horses as close as they can to the barrels trying to shave precious seconds off the clock. For each barrel they knock over (which happens sometimes) a 5 second penalty is assessed to their total time. Leaving the barrels standing and ripping through the course is every barrel racers goal. 13 to 14 seconds is generally a winning time in this event, but this will vary according to the size of the arena.

Bull Riding

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As with bareback riding, and saddle bronc, bull riders ride with one hand and cannot touch themselves or their bull with the free hand. Doing so results in a no score. Two judges give 1-25 points for the cowboys performance and 1-25 points for the animals performance. 100 points being the maximum, and is considered a perfect ride. Cowboys can spur for extra points, but just staying on the bull for 8 seconds is the main priority. A good score in the bull riding is in the 90’s. There has been one perfect score of 100 in the PRCA.

Steer Roping

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Steer roping began in the early days with the round-up wagon.In those days, it was necessary to rope and throw steers for branding, as they had reached an age and size that proved them hard to handle otherwise.Cattle from several outfits would mix and graze on the same range, and to ready the cattle for market, the ranchers would throw in together with their round-up wagons and cowboys. For many days, from dawn to dark, the cowboys would ride the ridges and draws searching for steers and throwing them in with the big bunch. These steers, all wild, nervous and restless, were difficult to control and should one break away from the bunch, there was a cowboy hot on his trail to put him back. Many times, it became necessary to rope and bust these steers to encourage him to stay with the herd. Should an unbranded steer be seen, he was roped, thrown, branded and then turned back into the wild bunch.

After years of such round-ups these cowboys became proficient in their work of roping and tying, and some were naturally more skillful at the work. Thus, it came about that each outfit had its top-hands, and when outfits gathered for the round-up, these cowboys, stirred on by the spirit of competition, would challenge each other in a match roping.

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