I have seen rodeos on TV, but never live. Crazy sport/entertainment with roots in Spanish cattlemen known as vaqueros of the early 1700’s; what you see in a rodeo today is largely what the vaqueros did on their daily routine and, in competitions amongst themselves during idle times. It was not until the railroad expanded to the west, that the need for cattle runs virtually stopped; this change forced cowboys to seek alternative ways to make a living. Some turned into performers in “Wild West” shows that started to showcase the best of what they were famous for – roping, horse breaking, riding, herding, branding, and much more. One of the most famous Wild West show organizers was Buffalo Bill Cody.
Rodeos are not unique to the US, they are popular in countries like Australia, Mexico, Argentina, Spain, Canada amongst others.
Back to our first rodeo experience…as with other sports you watch on TV, seeing them live brings a more exiting dimension to it; this experience was no exception. Below more on what we saw and some facts about rodeos.
Rodeos take place outdoors and indoors. This one was an indoors event and happened to be the Southern Rodeo Association finals. The SRA finals took place over two days, we attended the first day. Here you see the arena about an hour before the start of the event.
The SRA finals include Junior and Senior riders. Within the Junior category the age groups are divided as – Pee Wee (6 and under) compete in Muttin Bustin, Goat Tying, Barrel Racing and Pole Bending. Junior ( 7-10) compete in Calf Riding, Breakaway Roping, Goat Tying, Barrel Racing, Pole Bending and Team Roping. Senior (11-17) compete in Calf Roping, Breakaway Roping, Team Roping, Chute Doggin, Steer Riding and Bull Riding. Sounds tough to me. Here we see some Juniors that competed in their event earlier in the day. Just hanging and hoping to learn something from the season veterans that will be riding in a few minutes.
A fitting start of every rodeo, parading the Stars & Stripes to cheers from the crowd, singing of the National Anthem followed by a prayer.
I am not sure what they are called, but there are two riders that assist bronco riders in dismounting and releasing the flask strap from the broncos once the rider’s time is up. They are very skilled riders and can rope a bucking bronco with amazing accuracy.
The next few pictures show different bronco riders and their styles.
Some like to come out of the chute leaning as far back as possible.
Some have a more upright technique.
Regardless of what technique you utilize, the bodies of each rider is violently thrown in every direction imaginable. Holding on is the goal and many end up eating dirt before their time is up.
How do they get the broncos to buck? They do need some encouragement to buck to provide the rider with the most difficult experience. To make them buck a flask belt is placed right in front of their hind legs and tightened. Since this is not a normal feeling, once released, the bronco bucks trying to release the unusual pressure. As soon as the ride is over, the riders (you see one in the background) get besides the bucking bronco and releases the flask strap. Almost immediately the bronco calms down and is led out of the arena.
The faces on most of the riders are just the best part for me. You can clearly see that they are holding for dear life and they have no idea as to where their bodies will be thrown on the next bronco jump.
They literally look like someone has tied a rag doll to the broncos and away they go.
Many make the 8 seconds that will qualify you for a score; many do not. This rider is in visible trouble as he still has 4 seconds to go. Eight seconds do not sound like a long time, but must admit that while watching these riders, eight seconds seemed to go by a lot slower than normal.
A familiar scene even with the experienced riders in the SRA finals.
We saw many scenes like this. Several riders barely got up and limped slowly back to the chute area. We were amazed at the number of close calls where hoofs closely missed fallen riders just like in this picture.
Girls Roping Event
A lady contestant warming up as she is next on the Break Away roping event.
The Break Away event is a form of calf roping where a very short lariat (rope loop) is used, tied lightly to the saddle horn with string and a flag. When the calf is roped about the neck, the horse stops, the flagged rope breaks free of the saddle, and the calf runs on without being thrown or tied.
The next few pictures show the sequence of breakaway roping
Mens Roping Event
The men’s roping event starts like the women’s, but once the calf is roped, the riders quickly dismounts and must hold the calf and turn it on its back. Then the rider takes the smaller rope he holds on his mouth and must use it to tie one front leg to the two hind legs of the calf. As in the women’s event, the one with the quickest time wins.
Also known as “Bulldogging,” is a rodeo event where the rider jumps off his horse onto a Corriente steer and ‘wrestles’ it to the ground by grabbing it by the horns. This is probably the single most physically dangerous event in rodeo for the cowboy, who runs a high risk of jumping off a running horse head first and missing the steer, or of having the thrown steer land on top of him, sometimes horns first. (description taken from Wikipedia)
The rider on the left of the picture is to keep the steer from running away from the rider on the right. As you can imagine, great timing and coordination for the two riders is paramount.
I was lucky to be seated at an angle that allowed me to take this sequence showing how the rider trying to wrestle the steer times his approach.
You can see the rider on the right- has his hand just about to grab one of the steers horns.
…and BAM!!! Got you! Again, quickest time wins.
As with all other events, everything does not always go to plan. In this case, the steer runs by one of the riders and their chances to score points disappears as quick as this steer did.
We might be seeing a future roping champion here.
How about a future cowgirl? There were many youngsters having a blast just having fun amongst themselves.
As we get ready for the cowgirls barrel races, the guys get together and seem to be reviewing strategies for the upcoming bull rides.
Three barrels placed in a triangle formation and spaced about 50 or so feet apart. The object is for each rider to start at a predetermined spot, circle each barrel in the same sequence (cloverleaf shape) and return to the starting point. The fastest rider wins.
May look simple, but as with any timed event, you see how technique, agility, experience, timing and overall finesse can make a huge difference. Knocking barrels down loses points.
Unfortunately, this rider’s horse lost its footing which resulted in a nasty spill and disqualification. You never know how things will go at any of these events; this uncertainty kept us glued to the action. The horse and rider were both uninjured.
Ok, this rider has cleared the three barrels. The third barrel is furthest from the starting point; so now she must race to the starting point before her time is scored.
There was some brief entertainment between events. The clown that did some funny skits and then changed into this fat suit. The mix of music the way he made the suit move had the crowd roaring.
We were told that bull riding is considered the main event. The most dangerous of all the events- as the bulls are huge and can thrash the riders more violently than broncos can. So here we are, the chute team ready to release the bull and rider for the obligatory 8 second ride…
…away we go. It was very noticeable that the bulls rotated a lot more violently and unpredictably than the broncos did. Not as tall as the broncos, but they made it up with shear mass and speed.
Did you see the movie “8 seconds”? We have not, but have read about it. It chronicles the life of Lane Frost and how dangerous this sport is. I do not want to spoil the ending for you, so will keep it at that (have read about it while researching for this posting). The movie supposedly does a great job chronicling life of rodeo riders.
Is that guy in front of the bull crazy? Nope, his job is to make sure the bull and the rider do not get hurt by crashing into the chute rails. Here he is waving the bull away from the rails.
No thanks…he is facing a 2,000 pound bull that is pretty much pissed off at the world at the moment.
This riders 8 seconds is up and now must dismount a still bucking bull; not as easy as it looks or may sound.
…gone. Once on the ground, there is still high danger of getting hit by one of the bull flying hoofs.
Hope you enjoyed this post and thanks for visiting!