Every event in the CFR has it’s own set of rules, regulations, and challenges. From beginning to end of their respective events, cowboys and cowgirls challenge themselves in every way possible. Each event takes place in the following order every night of CFR:
This event is the most physically demanding in rodeo. The cowboy, using only one arm, holds onto the leather handhold of the bareback rigging, which is made of leather, and is cinched around the horse. The stress on the rider’s arm is intense, absorbing most of the horse’s power. The handhold is snug fitting and customized to the individual’s grip.
The rider will be disqualified for failing to keep his spurs over the break of the horse’s shoulder until the first jump out of the chute is complete, for touching the animal or equipment with their free hand, or for getting bucked off before the end of the eight-second ride. Riders try to spur the horse on each jump, reaching as far forward as they can with their feet, then bringing their spurs back toward the rigging. At the same time, they must keep from being snatched away from the handhold. The higher and wilder they spur, the better they mark.
Timing, coordination and strength are prerequisites for a steer wrestler. To begin with, he must remain behind the barrier, which is a rope stretched across the front of the starting box, until the steer crosses the scoreline, giving it a headstart. If the cowboy breaks the barrier, 10 seconds are added to his time.
The horse is trained to run beside the steer and then run on by as the steer wrestler reaches for his steer. The steer wrestler catches the right horn in the crook of his right arm and then must hit the ground with his legs extended forward in order to bring the steer to a halt. Using his left hand as leverage under the steer’s jaw, he throws the steer off balance and wrestles it to the ground. The steer must be flat on its side with all four legs extended before the official time is taken. Also, the steer must be on its feet before being wrestled.
The event requires an extra horse ridden by a hazer whose job is to keep the steer running as straight as possible. Control and speed are required from both horses as they wait for their steer to start and then cover about 150 feet in four seconds from a standing start.
Novice Saddle and Bareback Riding
In order to compete in the novice events cowboys must be within a certain age bracket. Competitors must have turned 16 years of age during the rodeo season in question and remain under 21 until the end of the year.
The mechanics and scoring of the novice events are consistent with their professional equivalents. The stock used in these events are often new to the professional arena and are selected to compliment the ability of the rider.
Open to cowboys 14 to 11 years of age as of the current year, Steer Riders must have the reflexes and the body control of a seasoned gymnast if they hope to be successful.
A Steer Rider stays on by means of a flat braided rope with a loose handhold, which he may hold onto with either one or two hands. If riding with one, he may not touch himself or the animal during the course of the ride, or they will be disqualified. Using his grip and a little dry resin, he keeps that rope tight around the girth of the Steer, just behind the front legs.
Steer Riders are not required to “mark out” the Steer or spur at all times, but they increase their scores if they do. Once the rider is unseated, whether by his choice or the Steer’s, the bullfighters move in to distract the Steer, allowing the cowboy to get to safety.
Team roping requires close cooperation and timing between highly skilled ropers, a header and heeler. As in other timed events, the team ropers start from boxes on each side of the chute from which the steer enters the arena. The steer gets a head start depending on the length of the arena.
When the steer reaches its advantage point, the barrier is released and the header takes off in pursuit, with the heeler trailing slightly further behind. If the header breaks the barrier before the steer completes its head start, the ropers are assessed a 10-second penalty.
There are three types of legal head catches; either the rope must be around both horns or one horn and the head or around the head of the steer. Once the header makes his catch he turns the steer to expose his rear legs to the heeler. The heeler then attempts to rope both hind legs. If only one is caught, there is a five second penalty. The clock is stopped when there is no slack in the ropes and the horses are facing each other.
Rhythm is the key in this event. The rider spurs from the horse’s neck in a full swing toward the back of the saddle in time with the bronc’s actions. The cowboy must supply his own saddle, which is uniform in design, together with a braided rein, spurs with dull rowels, and chaps of light leather.
The length of the rein is important. The cowboy must adjust his grip carefully to maintain balance and avoid either being rolled over the front end or launched out of the saddle. To qualify, the rider must have his boots over the break of the horse’s shoulders until the horse has completed his first jump out of the chute.
He will be disqualified for touching any part of the animal or equipment with his free hand, losing a stirrup, or getting bucked off before the end of the eight-second ride. A rider will gain points for spurring high in the horse’s shoulders back to the cantle of his saddle.
Tie-down roping is the most technical event in rodeo. It takes hours of practice to perfect both the skills of the roper and the horse. To begin with, the roper must remain behind the barrier until the calf crosses the scoreline. Breaking the barrier adds 10 seconds to the roper’s time.
After roping the calf, the cowboy must run down his rope and throw the calf by hand. If the calf is down when he reaches it, he must allow the calf to get up and then throw it. The roper then ties any three legs with a pigging string. The tie must hold for six seconds after the roper remounts his horse and during that time his rope must remain slack.
The maneuvers of the horse are all important. He must rate the speed of the calf, stop on cue in a single stride and then hold the rope taut while the roper runs to his calf. A solid, true working horse is difficult to find and commands a high price.
Ladies Barrel Racing
In this colourful ladies rodeo event, the rider must circle three barrels set in a cloverleaf pattern. The closer she circles the barrels, the better time she makes. The danger is in cutting too close and knocking down a barrel. An extra five seconds is added to the rider’s time for each barrel that falls.
The barrel racer’s time is started when she crosses an electric beam of light and the time is completed when she recrosses the beam after completing the pattern. A fast, well trained horse is the key to winning this event.
The rider can be disqualified if she and her horse break the pattern. Times are so close, measured in hundredths of a second, that the horse and riders require great precision to race quickly, yet cautiously.
Definitely the most dangerous event in rodeo, bull riding requires a positive attitude from the cowboy as he faces a test of nerves with a tough bull. A braided rope, of varying width, is wrapped loosely around the bull with a weighted cowbell hanging underneath, allowing the rope to fall free when the ride is completed.
The rope has a woven handhold that is pulled tight around the rider’s hand and with one more wrap taken to ensure a snug fit. During the ride, the cowboy must keep himself close up on the handhold to prevent his arm from straightening and jerking his hand loose.
He will be disqualified for failing to have a bell attached to his rope, touching the bull with his free hand or bucking off before the end of an eight-second ride. Riders are not required to spur, as staying on these loose-hided animals is difficult enough. But naturally, if they do, they receive a better mark.
Pick-up men are not used, as a bull would just as soon fight a man on horseback as one on foot. The rider must depend on bullfighters to distract the bull until the cowboy is safely out of the bull’s range.