Rodeo - Rough Stock Events

A bull rider makes a hard landing. Photo © Mary Vogt

Rodeos are certainly one of the most exciting events in all of sports, but they can be confusing for those unfamiliar with them. Most rodeos host a variety of different events, which can be classified into two categories: timed events and rough stock events. Rough stock events are those in which brave cowboys are pitted against bucking broncs and bulls. Each cowboy and animal pair is scored by two judges, and both rider and mount earn points based on level of skill shown in their ride.

In rough stock events, cowboys are paired with animals through a random lottery system known as a draw. The draw gives every cowboy a fair chance at being paired up with any animal in the pen. A bit of background information on each rough stock event will help you better understand the events at your next rodeo.

Saddle Bronc Riding

Saddle bronc riding is one of the most traditional of all rodeo events. One of the main duties on a working ranch is breaking new horses to ride, and this can be a challenge for wild, spooky animals. Saddle bronc riding is not far removed from these working roots and pairs a brave cowboy against a furiously bucking horse. The cowboy holds onto the handle of a small, light saddle as the horse bucks, spins and jumps for a furtive 8 seconds. Two different judges score every horse and rider and award a maximum of 25 points to each, for a possible perfect score of 100.

A perfect score is almost unheard of in this volatile sport, although scores in the mid to upper 90s have been recorded on multiple occasions.

Bareback Riding

Bareback riding has the same roots as saddle bronc riding, but isn’t quite the same. In this event, cowboys cling to the back of a bucking horse with only his legs and a lead rope attached to the horse’s halter.

As the horse bucks and jumps, the cowboy pulls on the rope to steady himself and prevent an unwanted dismount. Spurring action is a vital part of the score, and each cowboy must move his feet back over the horse’s shoulders in order to receive a good score. The cowboy must be careful not to slap the horse with his free hand or he will be disqualified. Rough stock horses compete in both bareback and saddle bronc events, although some animals may buck better in one particular event.

Bull Riding

Bull riding has been called the most extreme sports event in the world, and it more than earns this honor. Bull riding is one of the few rodeo events that has no strong background in ranch work. It began when bored cowboys with a little free time on their hands would hop aboard the biggest bull in the pen and see how long they could hold on. People would gather around the pen and see which cowboy could hold on the longest. Creative cowboys discovered that a piece of rope wrapped around the bull’s chest have them more stability and began crafting their own bull ropes specifically for these contests. As the sport grew in popularity, rules were put in place to not only see how long each cowboy could hold on, but to judge his overall riding skill.

Modern bull riding events are very similar to those historical contests, with each cowboy still perched atop a bucking bull with only a piece of rope. However, modern innovations have made the sport much safer. Many cowboys now wear vests to protect their internal organs from a flying hoof or an errant horn in the event of an ugly dismount. Some cowboys also wear protective mouth guards and helmets to avoid life-threatening facial and head injuries.

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Casey, Stevee. "Rodeo - Rough Stock Events." ThoughtCo, Nov. 27, 2012, Casey, Stevee. (2012, November 27). Rodeo - Rough Stock Events. Retrieved from Casey, Stevee. "Rodeo - Rough Stock Events." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 23, 2017).