Born of the roughriders boast that he can 'ride anything with hair on', Bull Riding is the ultimate test of courage and strength. It is the most dangerous event in rodeo - not only from the ride itself but from a rodeo bull after the eight seconds ride. This can be all the more dangerous if the bull rider has bucked off or is injured and defenseless on the ground.
A successful ride on a top bucking bull seems theoretically impossible. Their strength and agility, weighing up to a tonne or more, puts the odds firmly with the bulls.
The fact that bull riders do regularly make qualified rides on these spectacular animals is a tribute to their skill and - above all - their intense concentration and 'focus'. A top bull rider needs strong legs, upper body control and lightening fast reflexes - there is no time to think. Bull riders are not required to spur, and simply use their feet to pull themselves back into position or to hold themselves upright on a spinning bull. Bucking off 'into the well' - on the inside of a spinning bull - invites an immediate attack by the bull and is very dangerous.
The rider tries to sit 'over his hand' during the ride. If he leans back he may be whipped forward as the bull bucks and is in danger from the bulls head and horns. Seasoned bucking bulls seem to feel and watch a rider's every movement and know exactly what to do to throw him if he gets even a little out of position.
The judges look for a bull rider using a combination of free arm, legs and feet for balance to keep him in the best body position during the ride.
Spurring is not required but extra points are awarded for the use of the feet including the way they are used in response to the bull's twist and turns to hold the body upright.
The equipment used in bull riding is a plaited rope, with a handhold inserted, pulled tightly around the bull and held in place by the riders grip.
A bull rider is disqualified for touching the animal or his equipment and bucking off - a regular hazard in this tough event.
BAREBACK BRONC RIDING
Developed in the rodeo arena bareback riding is the supreme challenge - riding a rough horse without a saddle or a rein. The high spurring action of the bareback rider produces some of the wildest and most exciting rides in rodeo.
A bareback rider 'starts' the horse out of the chutes with his feet over the break of the shoulder. If he misses the start - called the 'mark out' - he is disqualified.
The ideal spurring action is with the rider leaning back with his heels starting in front of the horses shoulder. Then, with toes turned out, he jerks his feet almost up to the wither as the horse bucks, setting them back into position in front of the shoulder and ready for the next jump. The higher and wider the spurring style - the better the score.
In bareback riding the contestant has no control over the horse - there is no halter or rein - and he is judged on his spurring technique. The bareback rigging is a leather pad with a special handhold attached.
Bareback riding is generally considered the most physically demanding rodeo event, with possible injury to arms, shoulders and necks from the stresses on their riding arm - the one holding on to the rigging - and will strap or bind it to reduce the strain and possible injury.
The 'classic' contest between man and horse - saddle bronc riding has its origins deep in history. When man first captured and tamed wild horses as a means of transport, for hunting and farming and as a companion - the contest began. Some horses would not submit easily to being handled or ridden and the legends of the outlaw bucking horse became part of folk lore.
Now, saddle bronc riding is a stylised, highly skilled, rodeo event. It is considered the most technically difficult roughstock event and still holds pride of place as the premier event on most rodeo programs.
Every ride begins with the contestants feet turned out and over the break of the horse's shoulder as it leaves the chute. The rider synchronises his spurring in time with the horse's bucking action. A perfect action, earning highest points, is with the feet starting in front of the horse's shoulder then - with a long sweeping 'stroke' - to the back of the saddle, or 'cantle' as the horse bucks. The rider must then set his feet back to the shoulder, turning his toes out to try and get some purchase to get his timing right. Most points are scored for the spurring action from the shoulder to the girth, with extra points for a 'full lick' back to the cantle. A rider must ride with one hand and will be disqualified for touching the animal or equipment with his free hand or if he loses a stirrup or the single rope rein. And, of course, there is no score if he bucks off. Equipment used in saddle bronc riding is the standard contest saddle and a plain head collar with a single rope rein held in one hand.
LADIES BARREL RACE
The original ladies event in professional rodeo, the contestant must cross the scoreline and run a clover-leaf pattern around three barrels and back across the scoreline to end time. Either barrel, on the left or right, may be taken first, but a contestant will be disqualified for not following the clover-leaf pattern. A five second penalty will be added to the run time for each barrel knocked down, but a contestant may, from a riding position, hold a barrel from falling. The time is generally taken with use of an electric eye to the hundredths of a second.
LADIES BREAKAWAY ROPING
Ladies Breakaway Roping is conducted under the same rules as the rope and tie however the contestants are not required to throw and tie the calf. Time is given when the rope which is tied onto the saddle with string breaks away from the saddle. Contestants rope must pass over the steers head and not include a leg in the loop.
STATION SADDLE BUCKJUMP RIDING or POLEY BUCKJUMP
This is a one handed, 8 second contest, riding to be done in a traditional flap style stock saddle or a stock fender saddle. Saddles must include either a cropper or back cinch. Front cinch must be of a min 5 inches at the widest point. Time commences when horses inside shoulder crosses the plane of the chute. If spurs are used, the rowel must be of a blunt free rolling kind. Stock whips must not be used in this event.