Rodeo 101:   What Are You Watching?


The Limestone Sheriff’s Rodeo Events are divided into three basic categories:


Riding events include bull riding, bareback bronc riding and saddle bronc riding. Rough stock contestants receive a score from each of the two professional rodeo judges in the arena based on the competitor’s riding stock control and ability to ride the animal for a period of 8-seconds. In rough stock events, the judges award the ride from one to 25 points on how well he rides and they score the horse or bull on the same point scale for how well the animal bucks. If the animal bucks the rider off, the judges will record a score only for the animal.


Timed events include cowgirl barrel racing, breakaway roping, tie-down roping, team roping, and steer wrestling. Contestants try to complete their event in the least amount of time without receiving any time penalties for breaking the rules of an event.


Entertainment events include professional clowns and performers that entertain the audience between competitive events and while the arena is being prepared for the next event. This also includes the Queen and Cowboy contest finalists, the kids’ Gold Rush and Calf Scramble, and the Chuck Wagon Races.




Bull Riding is one of the youngest of the standard rodeo events and has been voted on by the “Sportswriters of America” as the most dangerous sport. The bull rider, who might not weigh more than 140 pounds, places a flat braided rope around a bull weighing one ton or more. After the rope is looped through itself, the cowboy wraps the rope around his riding hand. Only the cowboy’s grip keeps the rope and rider in place. Riding bulls, even if only for eight seconds, is particularly dangerous not only because of being “bucked” off, but also because of the contact by the bull after a cowboy is on the ground.




Bareback Bronc Riding: The cowboy is allowed a rigging with a handhold and cannot touch the horse or himself with his “free” arm for balance. Additionally, the rider must have his dulled spurs touching the neck, over the points of the shoulders of the horse, when the horse’s front feet first touch the arena floor out of the chute. Cowboys receive more points for setting the spurs closer to the mane, because of the degree of difficulty.





Saddle Bronc Riding is known as pro rodeo’s classic event. The saddle bronc rider uses the rhythm of the bucking horse and his own sense of timing to make a successful ride. The best rides are those where the rider and animal are in synch—their motions and movements are similar. The rider holds on to a thickly braided bucking rope that is attached to a halter on the horse’s head. Saddle broncs are usually bigger and stouter horses than those in bareback riding. On the first jump from the chute, the rider must have his spurs touching the animal over the point of the horse’s shoulders or he will be disqualified.


Barrel Racing is known as a horse race with turns. The cowgirl’s time begins as she rides her horse across the starting line in the arena. She makes the run around three upright barrels, in a clover-leaf pattern, and back to the starting line where the clock stops. Tipping a barrel is permitted, but if it is knocked to the ground, a 5-second penalty is added to her time.

Team Roping is the only rodeo event that features two contestants competing at the same time. The team is made up of a header and a heeler. The header ropes the horns dallies or wraps his rope around his saddle horn and turns the steer to the left for the other cowboy who ropes the heels. The heeler must throw a loop with precision timing to catch both of the steer’s hind legs. Once both roper’s have made a catch and pulled their horses and the steer to a stop, and are facing each other, time ends.

Steer Wrestling, originally called “bulldogging”, requires the cowboy to jump from a running horse onto the back of a 600-pound steer. The cowboy catches the steer behind the horns, stops the steer’s forward momentum and wrestles it to the ground with all four of it’s legs and head pointing the same direction. The bulldogger is assisted by a hazer, who rides along the steer’s right to keep the animal running straight.

Tie-Down Roping, originally known as “Calf Roping”, began as a ranch skill. Roping is the most sensible way to detain the calf long enough to doctor or brand it. The calf is given a head start on the roper. Once the roper has his loop on the calf, he dismounts and runs down along the rope to the calf. After the calf is on the ground, the cowboy ties three legs together with a 6-foot pigging string. If the cowboy’s horse leaves the box too soon and breaks the barrier—which is stretched in front of the horse—a 10-second penalty is added to the roper’s time. In tie-down roping, a 10th of a second can often make the difference between winning and losing.

Breakaway roping is a rodeo event that features a calf and one mounted cowgirl. A 10-foot rope is fastened around the calf's neck which is used to ensure that the calf gets a head start. The breakaway roper is behind a taut rope fastened with an easily broken string which is fastened to the rope on the calf. When the roper is ready she calls for the calf and the chute man trips a lever opening the doors. The suddenly freed calf breaks out running. When the calf reaches the end of his rope, it pops off and simultaneously releases the barrier for the roper. The roper must throw her rope in a loop around the calf's neck.

Once the rope is around the calf's neck, the roper signals the horse to stop suddenly. The rope is tied to the saddle horn with a string. When the calf hits the end of the rope, the rope is pulled taught and the string breaks. The breaking of the string marks the end of the run. The fastest run wins.