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Horse Show Rodeos

History of Rodeos

Rodeos originated around the mid 1800's on large Texas cattle ranches as cowboys gathered to demonstrate the roping and riding skills that they learned from the Mexican cattlemen who ran large herds of cattle on vast tracts of land. Even the word "rodeo" comes from the Spanish word rodear, which means to round up or circle.

The first recorded rodeo took place in Colorado in 1869. In those early days before official arenas, events took on Main Street, no doubt with plenty of subsequent property damage. Events were rooted in the daily ranch work, such as branding and breaking wild horses. These informal contests held at round up time later became a feature at Western fairs.

Rodeo Horse Over time the rodeo has evolved into a professional sport held in the U. S. and Canada under the rules of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys' Association. Formed in 1936, the PRCA has over 5,000 members and another 3,500 "apprentice" permit-holders trying to win enough money to become pros. Over 700 sanctioned rodeos are held each year; the two top events are the Calgary Stampede and the annual National Finals Rodeo held each year in Las Vegas with prize money of over two million dollars.

Rodeo Events

Although the traditional rodeo events consisted of breaking horses and branding cattle, today there are six basic competitive rodeo events:

  • Bull riding
  • Bareback riding
  • Saddle bronco riding
  • Steer wrestling
  • Calf roping
  • Team roping
Rodeo Event

Bull riding - Bull riders are the gladiators of the modern day rodeo, participating in the most dangerous event there is. Bulls are bigger than horses and much more aggressive, not to mention they come armed with two sharp horns and aren't afraid to use them. Riders must stay on for 8 seconds with one hand holding on to a rope loosely tied around the middle. The other hand cannot touch the bull or the rider is disqualified. Judges award the cowboy a score out of possible 100 points based on style, with average scores ranking in the 60's.

Bareback riding - In bareback riding, the horse wears a surcingle around his girth with a handle for the cowboy to hang on to. The horse also has a bucking strap pulled tight around his loins to encourage bigger bucks. Like bull riding, the cowboy must stay on for 8 seconds without changing hands to score. Judges awards points according to style based on the cowboy's ability to spur the horse from shoulder to flank in rhythm with the horse's movements.

Saddle bronc riding - While riding a bucking horse with a saddle on may seem easier, this event has challenges of it's own. The cowboy has reins but they are only attached to a halter, not a bit. Also, while the stirrups may offer more balance, if the cowboy drops one during his 8 second ride he's disqualified. If his foot slides through and he falls, he could be drug and seriously injured. Riders may also opt to remove the saddle horn from the saddle, since touching it (or "grabbing leather") will also result in disqualification. As with bareback riding, points are awarded based on the cowboy's ability to rake his spurs from front to back in synchronicity with the horse's movement.

Steer wrestling - In steer wrestling, also called "bull dogging", two riders gallop alongside of a steer. One of them, the "hazer" keeps the steer on track while the other leaps off his horse, grabs the 700-800 pound steer by the horn and pulls it down to the ground. One misstep could end up with the bulldogger sitting in the dirt. A good run takes between three and five seconds.

Calf roping - Calf roping heavily depends on teamwork between horse and rider. Horse and rider gallop after a calf as it's released from a chute. The rider ropes the calf, leaps off the horse, runs to the calf and flips it, tying three of its legs together. The tie must hold for five seconds for it to count. Meanwhile, the horse must keep the rope tight enough to keep the calf from escaping but not so tight that it pulls the calf over or drags it before the rider gets there. This is a timed event where the fastest time wins. A good run takes approximately 12 or 13 seconds.

Team roping - A team of two riders and their horses work together in this timed event to immobilize the calf or steer. One rider and his horse are the "header," stopping the cow by roping its head or horns. The other, the "heeler", then lassos the cow's heels. Both horses pull the rope taut and face each other on either side of the steer, stopping the clock.

Other events that can be included in the rodeo are barrel racing and chuck wagon races.

Barrel racing - Unlike other rodeo events, this sport is dominated by women, who are able to tightly turn their horses in a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels and race for the finish line faster than men.

Chuck wagon races - The modern version of a chariot race and often just as dangerous, a chuck wagon race involves driving a team of four horses at a full gallop around an oval track.

Rodeo Teams

Rodeo Team Many American universities across the states have a rodeo team within the colleges. College national rodeo finals are held once a year and students from all over the country gather and compete against one and other to win their school championship trophies.

Each participant will specialize in a particular field event and they will compete in it for their school. The American Junior Rodeo Association holds annual rodeo events for new and upcoming talent from all over the state. Every year, the weekend before the 4th of July is known as "Cowboys Christmas". During this time, cowboys and girls from all over the country compete for cash prizes ranging from $50,000 to $100,000.

Rodeo Horses

The king of rodeo horses is the American Quarter Horse. It has the speed, agility and "cow smarts" needed to successfully compete in any rodeo event.

Horses used for the bronc riding events are often bred specifically for that purpose and are as famous as the cowboys who attempt to ride them.


Standard Guidelines for Rodeos

The animal welfare guidelines set standards for all rodeo events to protect the animals from improper care and treatment. There are over 50 rules and regulations that are designed to cover all aspects of care, treatment, transportation and competition. Professional veterinarians are required to be on staff at all professional rodeos horse shows.

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