This event requires control, attention to detail, and close cooperation between horse and rider. Competing against the clock, contestants circle three barrels in a cloverleaf pattern and race back across the scoreline. Time is measured with an electronic eye timer, and a hundredth of a second can determine who wins. A rider may touch a barrel, but if she knocks one over a five-second penalty is added to her total time. Below you find more information about the rules of barrel racing.
In Tie Down Roping, the cowboy and his equine partner re-create one of ranching’s oldest tasks: roping and tying an animal. Speed, skill and finesse are key in this event. The cowboy waits behind a rope barrier. When he gives the nod, the calf is released and gets a 10-ft. head start. The cowboy must quickly rope the calf, dismount on the run to reach it, turn it on its side and tie three of its legs. While the roper makes the tie, his horse keeps the rope taut. Time is called when the cowboy throws his hands in the air.
It’s cowboys vs. the clock in this event which requires coordination and strength. The steer wrestler waits behind a rope barrier. When he gives the nod, the steer is released and gets a 12-ft. head start. The cowboy chases the steer, then drops from his horse and grabs its horns to bring it to a halt. The steer must be on its feet before being rolled to the ground. Once on its side with all legs extended, the official time is taken. An extra horse, ridden by a hazer, is required to keep the steer running straight.
Rhythm between a cowboy and his horse is key in Saddle Bronc. The rider moves his feet from the horse’s neck toward the back of the saddle, in time with the bronc’s action. The cowboy holds on to a braided rein that is connected to the horse’s halter, using it to balance himself. He cannot change hands on the rein. If his hand placement is too low on the rein, he will be pulled over the front; too high, and he may be bucked off the back before his eight seconds are up.
The bareback rider holds on to the leather handhold of a rigging—a pad wrapped around the horse's girth—as he extends his feet far forward, then rolls his spurs back up toward the rigging. The higher the spurs, the higher the score. The stress on the cowboy’s arm is intense as it absorbs most of the horse's power, but he needs to hold on for at least 8 seconds.
In the world-renowned bull riding events, cowboys engage in a test of nerves against a bull. A thick braided bullrope, complete with handhold, is wrapped around the bull and weighed down by a cowbell that allows the rope to fall when the ride is over. The rope is kept tight by the bull rider’s grip. He must try to keep his arm from straightening and his hand from breaking loose before the end of the ride. The cowboy isn’t required to move his feet—staying on is hard enough—but if he does spur, he gets higher marks.