La Verne Magazine
A Rodeo Primer: Racing, Wrestling, Roping, Riding and Bucking
by Meridith Zembal
Of course, there's more to rodeo than the the atmosphere-there are the
events. Two categories in the sport of rodeo are the timed events
barrel racing, steer wrestling, team roping, calf roping and steer roping,
and then there are the roughstock events bareback riding, saddle bronc
riding and bull riding.
This event started with a group of Texas women who wanted to be a part
of the tough, man-run rodeo. Three barrels are placed in a clover formation
(picture a triangle). The rider shoots out and heads for either the left
or right barrel. Once completely circling that barrel, the rider travels
the 90 feet to the other base barrel. After riding around the barrel, the
rider must circle it at the peak of the clover formation, then race back
to the starting line.
The object is to wrestle a steer using leverage and brute strength to
get it to the ground. Steer wrestlers are often referred to as "bulldoggers"
and must be strong and athletic to reach their goal. The wrestler, on horseback,
waits for the steer's head start, then slides down the right side of his
horse and grabs the steer's horns. By digging his heels in, the cowboy can
work the steer on to the ground.
Modeled after the way ranchers used to catch calves for branding or
for medical treatment, team roping is the only real rodeo team event. Similar
to wrestling, the calf gets a head start. The "header" is the
first man to rope. His job is to catch the steer around the neck or around
one horn and the calf's head, then "dallies" (wraps) the rope
around the horn of his saddle. Then the header must ride away to turn the
calf away from the "heeler." The heeler is the second man to rope.
He must rope the calf's rear hooves. The clock stops after the rope is taut.
This is how team roping originated, as well as calf roping.
Like team roping, the calf is given a head start. The rider takes off,
roping the calf, and his horse makes a quick stop. Once the calf is caught,
the rope must be dallied around the horn of the saddle. Next, the cowboy
must "flank" the calf (throw it to the ground) and tie any three
legs of the calf together. The calf must stay tied for six seconds for the
rider to receive a time. This is similar to the steer roping event.
Bareback riding is a very physically demanding sport. Broncs (horses)
are very long and limber, producing a very stressful buck and kick. They
can torque their bodies, producing amazing amounts of force on the body,
specifically the lower back and spine. Judges score riders on their spurring
technique, and the amount they are willing to lean back and take the bucks.
Half the score is given for the horse's bucking action. The rider's mode
of support consists of "rigging" he holds with a grasping hand.
(Rigging is thick leather and rawhide strap that is fastened to the horse.)
The rider must stay on for eight seconds to receive a score, and the free
hand of the rider must not touch the bronc at all during the ride.
Saddle Bronc Riding
This event is similar to bareback riding, but as implied, it is with
a saddle and is a rodeo classic. It began when riders were forced to stay
on while breaking and training horses. A controlled ride in rhythm with
the horse once again is required for a high score. As it is for bareback,
the eight-second ride is necessary to earn a score.
The most awaited event of the whole rodeo, bull riding, takes power,
guts and a whole lot of strength. Bulls can weigh up to 2,000 lbs., but
are still quick and can be dangerous if the rider falls into a bad position.
The rodeo clowns often put their lives on the line for the riders to escape
to the fence for safety. A flat braided rope is wrapped around the rider's
hand that is secured on the bull. The rider's free hand must not touch the
bull during the 8-second ride to receive a score.