Professional rodeos in the United States and Canada generally incorporate events such as calf lasso, pair lasso, bulldogging, riding, horseback riding and drum racing.
Additional events can be included at high school levels. Some events are based on traditional ranch practices, others are modern developments and have no counterpart in ranch practice.
Rodeos can also offer themed entertainment in the range, including music and performances.
It is the oldest of the rodeo events. Lasso competitions are based on the tasks of a working cowboy, who often had to capture calves and adult cattle for branding, medical treatment and other purposes. The cowboy must throw a type of rope with a noose over a calf’s head or over the horns and around the legs of adult cattle, and protect the animal in a manner dictated by its size and age.
His horse stops and retreats on the rope while the cowboy dismounts, runs to the calf, throws him on the ground and ties him up. (If the calf falls while being tied, the cowboy must spend time waiting for the calf to stand up so he can do the job.) The horse’s job is to keep the calf firmly in the loop. A well-trained calf-looped horse slowly retreats while the cowboy ties the calf to help keep the snug comfortable.
A form of calf bow in which a very short bow is used, loosely tied to the horn of the saddle with rope and a flag. When the calf is looped around the neck, the horse stops, the rope is freed from the saddle and the calf remains unattached or tied. In most of the United States, this event is aimed primarily at women of all ages and boys under the age of 12. In places where the traditional use of lace for calves is not allowed, athletes of both sexes compete.
It is the only rodeo event in which men and women compete together. Two people capture and restrain an adult calf. One rider laces the horns of a running ox, while the other rider laces the two hind legs of the ox. After the animal is captured, the riders slightly pull the direction between them, so that the two ropes are stretched. This technique originated from methods of capture and containment for the treatment used on a farm.
It is a timed event of speed and agility. In three-drum races, horse and rider gallop around a clover pattern, making agile turns without knocking them over. In professional and collegiate rodeo, drum racing is an exclusively female sport, although men and boys occasionally compete in the local O-Mok-See competition.
Also known as “Bulldogging”, it is a rodeo event in which the rider jumps off the horse on an ox and ‘hits’ it on the ground, grabbing it by the horns. This is probably the most physically dangerous event of the rodeo for the cowboy, who is at high risk of jumping off a running horse’s head and losing the ox, or of having the ox thrown at him, sometimes the horns first.
Goat mooring is usually an event for women or pre-teen boys and girls. A goat is demarcated while a mounted rider runs to the goat, dismounts, grabs the goat, throws it on the ground and ties it in the same way as a calf. The horse must not come into contact with the goat or its rope. This event was designed to teach smaller or younger riders the basics of calf lacing without requiring the more complex ability to tie the animal. This event is not part of the professional rodeo competition.
Despite popular myth, most modern “broncos” are not, in fact, wild horses, but are more commonly pampered, horses bred specifically for rodeo. Some events also use at least two well-trained horses, ridden by cowboys, tasked with helping fallen riders and helping successful riders to safely leave the animal.
There are two divisions in the rodeo, bareback bronc riding, where the rider can only cling to a horse with a type of rope called “rigging”; and saddle bronc riding, where the rider uses a specific saddle and holds a thick rope, called a bridle, which is attached to a halter on the horse.
An event where cowboys ride adult bulls instead of horses. Although skills and equipment similar to those required for horse riding are necessary, the event differs considerably from competition with horses due to the danger involved. Because bulls are unpredictable and can attack a fallen pawn, rodeo clowns work during the competition to distract the bulls and help prevent injuries to competitors.
A difficult event for boys and girls, where children ride an ox, usually in a similar way to bulls. The ages vary according to the region, as there are no national rules defined for this event, but generally the participants are at least eight years old and compete around the age of 14. It is a training event for pedestrians.
Less Common Events
Various other events can be scheduled in a rodeo program, depending on the rodeo government association.
Not listed as an official PRCA event, and prohibited in several states, but discreetly recognized by PRCA in some areas. It is rarely seen today in the United States due to the enormous risk of injury to everyone involved, as well as cruelty to animals. A single looper ties the ox, throws the rope around the ox’s rear hip, swings and rides at a ninety-degree angle with the ox. This action brings the head towards the legs, in order to redirect the head towards the hind legs. This causes the ox to “trip”.
Steers are too big to tie in the way used for calves. However, this causes the ox to be temporarily disabled, allowing its legs to be tied in a similar way to the calf’s bow. The event has roots in northern US farm practices, but is no longer seen in most American rodeos. However, it is practiced in some rodeos in Mexico and can also be called “steer tripping”.
Usually seen at lower levels of competition, an event to help young competitors learn the skills needed later for riding. A pawn carrying a long stick with paint at the end tries to run alongside a calf and place a paint mark inside a circle that was drawn next to the animal.
It is a competition for speed and agility sometimes seen at local rodeos and high schools. It is most commonly seen as a scavenger hunt. In flexion of the pole, the horse and rider travel the length of a line of six vertical poles, turn sharply and weave through the poles, turn again and weave backwards and then return to the beginning.
It is an event to teach pre-teen boys to ride. The competitor enters a containment ramp with a small ox. The boy will then place his right arm around the neck of the calf and the left hand on top of the neck. When ready, the gate is opened. After they cross a designated line, the competitor grabs the ox’s horns and lays him on the ground.
Outside of competitive events, other activities are often associated with rodeos, especially at the local level. A typical rodeo begins with a “Grand Entrance”, in which mounted riders, many carrying flags, including the American flag, state flags, flags representing sponsors and others gallop into the arena, circle once, reach the center of the arena and stop while the remaining participants enter. The main entrance is used to introduce some of the competitors, officials and sponsors. It is limited by the presentation of the American flag, usually with a version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and, depending on the region, other ceremonies. If a rodeo queen is crowned, competitors or the winner and runners-up may also be presented.
Varied presentations, which may include musicians, rodeo or other entertainment, can take place in the middle of the rodeo, at the break. Some rodeos may also include events such as preteen riding or sheep riding for young children. In some places, various types of races or innovative events, such as wild cow milking, are offered for adults. Such competitions are generally unregulated, with a greater risk of injury to participants and inappropriate treatment of animals than in traditionally sanctioned events, especially if alcohol consumption by participants is permitted.