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The complexity of thrills, spills

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January 05, 2018

Emerald rider Shane Kenny will be among the experienced competitors in Finley this Friday. Photo courtesy Dave Ethell.

There are six standard events in rodeo, which are classified as ‘rough stock’ or ‘rough riding’ events and timed events.

The three rough stock events are Saddle Bronc Riding, Bareback Bronc Riding and Bull Riding.

The three timed events are Steer Wrestling, Rope and Tie and Team Roping.

To help you understand the events, which will all be showcased in Finley on Friday, the Australian Professional Rodeo Association provides the following descriptions.

Bull Ride

Bull Riding is the ultimate test of courage and strength.

It is the most dangerous event in rodeo – not only from the ride itself but from a rodeo bull after the eight seconds ride.

A successful ride on a top bucking bull seems theoretically impossible.

Their strength and agility, weighing up to a tonne or more, puts the odds firmly with the bulls.

The judges look for a bull rider using a combination of free arm, legs and feet for balance to keep him in the best body position during the ride.

Spurring is not required but extra points are awarded for the use of the feet including the way they are used in response to the bull’s twist and turns to hold the body upright.

A bull rider is disqualified for touching the animal or his equipment and bucking off – a regular hazard in this tough event.

Saddle Bronc Riding

The classic contest between man and horse, saddle bronc riding is a stylised, highly skilled, rodeo event.

It is considered the most technically difficult rough stock event and still holds pride of place as the premier event on most rodeo programs.

The rider synchronises his spurring in time with the horse’s bucking action.

A perfect action, earning highest points, is with the feet starting in front of the horse’s shoulder then – with a long sweeping ‘stroke’ – to the back of the saddle as the horse bucks.

The rider must then set his feet back to the shoulder, turning his toes out to try and get some purchase to get his timing right.

Most points are scored for the spurring action from the shoulder to the girth, with extra points for a ‘full lick’ back to the cantle.

A rider must ride with one hand and will be disqualified for touching the animal or equipment with his free hand or if he loses a stirrup or the single rope rein.

And, of course, there is no score if he bucks off.

Bareback Bronc Riding

Bareback riding is the supreme challenge.

The high spurring action of the bareback rider produces some of the wildest and most exciting rides in rodeo.

The ideal spurring action is with the rider leaning back with his heels starting in front of the horse’s shoulder.

Then, with toes turned out, he jerks his feet almost up to the wither as the horse bucks, setting them back into position in front of the shoulder and ready for the next jump. The higher and wider the spurring style, the better the score.

In bareback riding the contestant has no control over the horse – there is no halter or rein – and he is judged on his spurring technique.

Barrel Race

The original ladies’ event in professional rodeo, the contestant must cross the scoreline and run a clover-leaf pattern around three barrels and back across the scoreline to end time.

Either barrel, on the left or right, may be taken first, but a contestant will be disqualified for not following the clover-leaf pattern.

A five second penalty will be added to the run time for each barrel knocked down, but a contestant may, from a riding position, hold a barrel from falling.

Rope and Tie

The essential key to roping and tying is the teamwork between the roper and a highly trained roping horse.

Given a head start before the barrier is released, the animal is roped from horseback.

The contestant then dismounts and runs to the animal, relying on his horse to keep it under control.

After reaching and catching the animal it is thrown onto its side and three of its legs are tied with a ‘pigging string’ the contestant carries in his teeth during the run.

If the animal is not on its feet after it is roped it must be let up and rethrown.

As the tie is completed the judge records the time it has taken.

The contestant then must remount his horse and ride it forward to prove that the tie will hold to the judge’s satisfaction.

If the animal kicks free before the judge rules a ‘fair tie’ no time is given for the run.

There are strictly enforced provisions for the welfare of animals used in the event.

Team Roping

Two ropers – a ‘header’ and a ‘heeler’ – work as a team to catch and control a steer.

The steer is given a head start out of the chute, with the header aiming to rope it around the neck, horns or head.

The header then turns the steer while the heeler moves in and ropes both hind legs.

Improper catches to the head or horns result in a disqualification, and a five second penalty applies if the heeler only ropes one leg.

The time is recorded when both catches are made and the horses are both facing the steer with no slack in the catch ropes.

Steer Wrestling

Perfect timing and team work between a steer wrestler and his helper, a mounted ‘hazer’ is the key to fast times in this event.

It is the hazer’s job to keep the steer running straight and not veer away.

As the horse pulls alongside the steer, the contestant leans from his horse, leaving his foot in the stirrup, and grasps the steer’s horns.

Once he has a hold, he uses his feet and body to stop the steer’s forward momentum and, once it is off balance, applies leverage on the horns to throw it on its side.

Winning times are usually under five seconds from when the barrier is released, with four seconds or better commonplace.

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