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.