What is Bareback Riding?
Bareback riding is one of the most physically demanding events in rodeo. Muscles are stretched to the limit, joints are pulled and pounded mercilessly, and ligaments are strained. It’s even been compared to riding a jackhammer with one hand. The strength of the bronc is exceptional, and the challenge to the cowboy is often costly.
Originally based on the necessary horse breaking skills of a working cowboy, this event requires competitors to ride tough horses without the benefit of saddle or rein. The only hold they have is a rigging, which looks like a heavy piece of leather with a suitcase handle. As the bronc and rider burst from the chute, the rider must “mark out” by having both spurs touching the horse’s shoulders until the horse’s feet hit the ground. Failing to mark out means disqualification.
As the bronc bucks, the rider must roll his spurs up the horse’s shoulders, matching the horse’s rhythm and showing control rather than flopping around. His free hand must never touch the horse, his equipment or himself.
If the ride lasts eight seconds, a total of 100 points may be earned. Half the points are awarded based on the control and spurring technique of the rider and half on the power, speed and agility of the bucking horse. A good score in bareback would be in the low-80’s. An excellent score would be in the mid-80’s to 90’s. The cowboys who are most successful anticipate and follow the horse’s movements to perfection.
What is Steer Wrestling?
Speed, strength and timing are necessary for this fast-paced event. With a world record sitting at 2.4 seconds, it is the quickest event in rodeo.
Contestants wrestle a steer to the ground as quickly as possible, competing against the clock and each other. Sounds simple, so what’s the catch? The steer generally weighs more than twice as much as the cowboy and, at the time the two come together, they’re both often traveling at 30 miles per hour.
Steer wrestlers start on horseback in a box behind a breakaway rope barrier. The steer gets a head start and if the cowboy breaks the barrier, he gets a 10-second penalty, which is an eternity in this lightning fast event. To catch the sprinting steer, the cowboy uses a “hazer,” a mounted cowboy who gallops his horse alongside the steer to keep it from veering away from the steer wrestler. When the cowboy reaches the steer, he slides off his galloping horse, hooks his arms around the horns, plants his feet on the ground, and uses strength and leverage to wrestle it to the ground. The clock stop when the steer is on its side with all four feet pointing the same direction.
Steer wrestling, also known as bulldogging, was so named because of the bulldog breed of dogs used to head off runaway steers in the old west.
What is Team Roping?
Team ropers work as partners: one header and one heeler who move in precise coordination. The key to success? Hard work and endless practice. Team roping partners must perfect their timing, both as a team and with their respective horses.
The mounted cowboys start in the “box.” When the header nods, the chute gate opens and the steer gets a head start. Ropers are assessed a 10-second penalty if the header breaks the barrier before the steer completes his head start. The header ropes first and must make one of three legal catches on the steer:
1. Around both horns
2. Around one horn and the head
3. Around the neck
Any other catch is illegal and disqualifies the team. As soon as the header dallies – wraps his rope around his saddle horn – and pulls the rope taut, the direction of the steer is changed. That gives the heeler the opportunity to catch both of the steer’s hind legs with his own rope; catching only one means a 5-second penalty for the team.
After the catch, the heeler also dallies, to stop the steer. When the ropes are taut and both horses face the steer, the time is recorded. Times vary widely depending on the size of the arena.
Like many other rodeo events, team roping grew out of the ranch chores of the past. Larger cattle would have to be immobilized for branding and doctoring by two ropers due to their strength and size.
What is Saddle Bronc Riding?
Saddle bronc riding evolved from the task of breaking and training horses to work the cattle ranches of the Old West. Many cowboys claim riding saddle broncs is the toughest rodeo event to master because of the technical skills necessary for success.
Using one hand and a large, thick rein that is attached to the horse’s halter, the cowboy tries to stay securely seated in his saddle. If he touches any part of the horse or his own body with his free hand, he is disqualified. Every move the bronc rider makes must be synchronized with the movement of the horse. The cowboy’s objective is a fluid ride, somewhat in contrast to the wilder and less-controlled rides of bareback riders.
To properly mark out his horse, the saddle bronc rider must have both heels touching the animal above the point of its shoulders when it makes its first jump from the chute. If the rider misses his mark, he receives no score. While riding, the cowboy must maintain a constant spurring action. He must bring his spurs from the tips of the shoulders of the horse to the rear of the saddle.
Judges score the horse’s bucking action, the cowboy’s control of the horse and the cowboy’s spurring action. If an 8-second ride is made, a possible 100 points can be earned. Half of the points are based on the cowboy’s performance and the other half on the horse’s performance. A good score in saddle bronc riding is in the high 80’s.
What is Calf Roping / Tie Down Roping?
Tie-down roping requires timing, speed, agility and strength. But a cowboy’s success in tie-down roping depends in large part on the precise teamwork between him and his horse. These highly trained mounts are taught to know when to start walking backward thereby keeping the rope taught and allowing the cowboy to do his work on the other end. It is truly amazing to watch as cowboy and horse compete together.
To start this sprinting event, the tie-down roper and his horse back into the box. The calf receives a head start. If the roper breaks the barrier before the calf reaches its head start, the cowboy receives a 10-second penalty.
As they chase after the calf, the cowboy swings his rope and catches the calf. As soon as he does, his horse is trained to come to a stop as he dismounts, sprints to the calf and throws it by hand, a maneuver called flanking. If the calf is not standing when the cowboy reaches it, he must allow the calf to get back on its feet before flanking it. After the calf is flanked, the roper ties any three legs together with a pigging string – a short, looped rope he clenches in his teeth during the run. The clock stops when the roper throws his hands in the air to signal he’s finished.
While the contestant is accomplishing all of that, his horse must pull back hard enough to eliminate any slack in the rope, but not so hard as to drag the calf. The roper then remounts his horse, rides forward to create slack in the rope and waits six seconds to see if the calf remains tied. If the calf kicks free, the roper receives no time.
As with team roping, the roots of tie-down roping can be traced back to the working ranches of the Old West. When calves were sick or injured, cowboys had to rope and immobilize them quickly for veterinary treatment. The main difference between the two events is the size of the cattle being roped. Team ropers work together because the steers they need to catch are often too big for one man. In both events, ranch hands prided themselves on the speed with which they could rope and tie calves, and they soon turned their work into informal contests.
What is Barrel Racing?
This fan-favorite event is known for quick turns, high speeds and edge-of-your-seat excitement. At a gallop, horses and riders race toward their first barrel (they can choose left or right first). A complete turn around the barrel and then it’s on to the next one, and then to the third (and last) barrel, making a cloverleaf pattern. Finally, the most exciting and loudest part of most rodeos, is when the barrel racer and horse sprint all the way out the gate.
Like other timed rodeo events, the winner of a barrel racing event can be determined by thousandths of a second. Making a winning time requires precision teamwork between horse and rider. Tight cornering, ground-level turns and break-neck speeds are key to winning in this fast-moving event. Though contestants may touch a barrel during their sharp turns, contestants receive a 5-second penalty for each barrel they knock over.
Contestants compete in the arena against each other and the clock, with 13 to 14 seconds usually claiming the winning times, but can vary according to the size of the arena. Disqualifications result from not following the cloverleaf pattern.
One way to think of barrel racing is as the Wild, Wild West version of horse racing. Instead of racing around an oval track, riders rip through a 3-barrel pattern at daunting speeds.
What is Bull Riding?
Rodeo competition, in the beginning, was a natural extension of the daily challenges cowboys confronted on the ranch – roping calves and turning broncs into saddle horses.
In contrast, bull riding emerged from the fearless and possibly fool-hardy nature of the cowboy. The risks are obvious. Serious injury is always a possibility for those fearless enough to sit astride an animal that literally weighs a ton and is usually equipped with dangerous horns.
Regardless, cowboys do it, fans love it and bull riding ranks as one of rodeo’s most popular events.
Like bareback and saddle bronc riders, the bull rider may use only one hand on a braided rope to stay astride during the eight-second ride. If he touches the bull or himself with his free hand, he receives no score. When the cowboy nods, the chute gate swings open, and he and the bull explode into the arena.
Every bull is unique in its bucking habits. A bull may dart to the left, then to the right, then rear back. Some spin or continuously circle in one spot in the arena. Others add jumps or kicks to their spins, while others might jump and kick in a straight line or move side to side while bucking.
Similar to other roughstock events, an 8-second ride can earn the contestant up to 100 points. But unlike the other rough stock contestants, bull riders are not required to mark out their animals. Additionally, spurring is not required, but can add to the cowboy’s score. Riders are commonly judged solely on their ability to stay aboard the twisting, bucking mass of muscle. A good score in the bull riding is in the 90’s. There has been one perfect score of 100 in the PRCA.
After the ride, bull riders are aided by bullfighters or rodeo clowns who distract the bull, allowing the cowboys to escape safely. It is dangerous and exciting, demanding intense physical prowess, supreme mental toughness and courage. Bull riding has taken on a life of its own with the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) tour, and its popularity shows no signs of slowing down.
What are the Catalena Cowgirls?
The Catalena Cowgirls – beautiful women, phenomenal paint horses, breathtaking and exhilarating show performances. You’ve never seen anything like it. It’s difficult to describe their unique attraction, but once you’ve seen their performances, you’ll know you’ve witnessed something spectacular.
The Catalena Cowgirls began as a part of the Sammy Catalena Rodeo Company. The rodeo company has been in existence since 1975. And in 1990, Sammy Catalena decided to add flash, color and pageantry to his rodeo performances, particularly for the National Anthem Salute.
Over the next two years, Sammy Catalena collected a number of paint horses and a team of women that would travel to all of his rodeo productions. They developed complex performances under the direction of Pete Catalena, and by 1995 the Cowgirls had become a well-known sensation in the state of Texas. Not only did other rodeo producers begin extending invitations for the Cowgirls to perform at their rodeos, but so did major event promoters who wanted the Cowgirls to make their events come alive.
The Catalena Cowgirls have appeared at the biggest rodeos across Texas, including the Texas Circuit Finals, the Southwestern Exposition and Fort Worth Livestock Show and the Heart of Texas Fair & Rodeo. From 1996 to 2004, they opened every single Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. That’s 20 consecutive performances each year. And when the Sammy Catalena Rodeo Company put on a Wild West Show on the islands of Aruba and Curacao, the Catalena Cowgirls were there.
Other events include performances for the World Championship bull riding series, the 2001 Olympic Torch Ceremony, and the World Energy Conference, for oil and gas leaders from all over the world. The state of Illinois has had the Cowgirls at three different events in the last two years, including the International Exposition. They were so impressed with the team that Sangamon County proclaimed April 18th as Catalena Cowgirls Day.
And it’s not just the Cowgirls who are requested for these events. The well-known paint horses the Cowgirls have trained are used around the state for special events on their own, such as the wild west acts at Six Flags Over Texas.
The Cowgirls consist of approximately 25 women, ranging in age from 21 to 40, each with different personal and professional backgrounds. Some of the Cowgirls are full-time students, while others are pursuing careers in legal, medical, sales, marketing and retail fields. With full-time schedules, the Cowgirls volunteer their time to practice and travel to events.
To be a Cowgirl requires a true commitment of time and energy, as well as a strong dedication to the sport and to her “sister” riders. A great deal of concentration and coordination by each Cowgirl is critical to making every presentation a successful and breathtaking experience.