Seven rodeo events have ties to the Old West

Folsom Pro Rodeo
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The seven main events in professional rodeo remain true to their Old West work origins. All sanctioned Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association rodeos have the events — popular bull and bronc riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing, saddle-bronc riding, calf roping and team roping. At the Folsom Pro Rodeo, set for July 2, 3 and 4, cowboys compete in timed events — street wrestling, calf roping and team roping — at 7 p.m. followed by grand entry at 8:15 p.m. Following the grand entry are the riding events including bull riding, bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, barrel racing and of course, the popular mutton busting. Bull Riding While most of the rodeo events have roots in ranch work, bull riding evolved from the cowboy’s fearless and perhaps foolhardy nature. With those massive horns and pure attitude, it’s easy to see why bull riding is the most dangerous sport in rodeo. A bull bucks differently than a horse, so the rider must be prepared for a downward thrust that could throw him over the animal’s head. The surprisingly agile bull, which weighs about 2,000 pounds, often spins as he bucks. Bull riders ride only with a flat-braided rope pulled tight around the bull and across their gloved riding hand. The rider uses his free arm and body to counter the bull’s spins and lunges, while spurring with his feet. For a qualified ride, the rider must hold onto the rope and not touch the ground or any part of the bull with his free hand or arm for eight seconds. If even his hand brushes the animal, he is disqualified. Extra points are awarded for spurring and turning out the toes. The athletic performance of both the cowboy and the bull determines the score. Steer Wrestling Speed and strength are tested in steer wrestling. This event is the quickest in rodeo and lasts three to five seconds. The steer wrestler or “bulldogger” begins his run behind a barrier with his “hazer,” a second cowboy who keeps the steer from veering away from the wrestler. The two chase the steer until the wrestler is in position to jump off his horse and on to the racing steer. He hooks his right arm around the steer’s right horn and grasps the left horn in his left hand and then digs in his heels deep in the dirt to use leverage to bring down the steer. The winner is determined by the fastest time. Barrel Racing Women’s barrel racing is an important part of the rugged sport of professional rodeo. The clock is the only judge of this contest. A rider must run barrels in a cloverleaf pattern starting at either side. The distance between the barrels varies with the size of the arena. The barrel racer is allowed a running start and is timed with an electronic timer. The rider is disqualified if the pattern is incorrectly run. Any time under 17 seconds is considered to be excellent. In barrel racing, the coordination between horse and rider is crucial. Saddle Bronc Riding This is the classic event of the rodeo. It requires the balance of a gymnast, the timing of a springboard diver and the grace of a dancer — all aboard a 1,200 pound twisting, pitching horse. For a qualified ride, a saddle bronc rider’s feet must touch the horse’s shoulders on the first jump out of the chute. The rider, gripping a thick rein attached to the horse’s halter, attempts to place his feet over the horse’s shoulders a split second before the animal’s feet strike the ground. As the horse bucks, the rider bends his knees and finishes his spurring stroke near the “cantle” (back of the saddle) then snaps his feet back to the horse’s shoulders as the animal’s front feet hit the ground. Unlike bareback riding, the cowboy is aiming for a “fluid” ride in tune with the horse and he’s prevented from touching the horse with his free hand. The event is judged by both time and physical performance of both horse and rider. Bareback Riding To get an idea of the strength required in bareback riding, imagine riding a jackhammer as if it were a pogo stick, holding on with only one hand. This event is considered the most demanding. Riders gasp a “rigging,” a handhold made of leather which is secured to the horse with a cinch. After the initial jump out of the chute, the cowboy pulls his spurs up the horse’s neck and shoulders until the spurs are nearly touching the rigging. A bareback rider is judged on his spurring technique and how far he leans back to take whatever happens during his ride. Tie-down Roping One of the oldest events in rodeo, tie-down roping, dates back to the Old West when ranch hands used to chase down sick or injured calves and immobilized them for treatment. After giving the calf a predetermined head start, the horse and rider give chase. When the rider lassos the calf, he dismounts, runs to the calf and ties any three legs together using a “pigging string.” When the roper has completed his tie, he throws his hands in the air as a signal to timers. He then remounts his horse and rides toward the calf making the rope slack. The calf must remain tied for six seconds after the rope is slack or the cowboy will receive “no time.” Team Roping This is the only true team event in professional rodeo. One cowboy, the header, waits behind a barrier until the steer has taken its head start. He must rope the steer around one horn, two horns or around the neck. The heeler follows the header by roping the steer’s hind feet. Catching only one foot with the rope results in a five-second penalty. This is a timed event. ~ Supplied by Folsom Pro Rodeo