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.