Rodeo America's Number 1 Sport!
No discussion of Western riding would be complete without explaining the sport of professional rodeo. The sport of Rodeo has been a tradition in the United States since the cowboys of the American West began pushing herds of cattle across this country. As a matter - of - fact, this is where the origins of Rodeo come from. Often, there was very little to do besides hard work with the cattle and horses, so the cowhands would often get together and compete with each other in the skills that they practiced every day on their jobs in order to alleviate boredom. At first, these competitions consisted mainly of riding bucking horses and roping steers, cows and calves, because this was what the majority of their work consisted of. Each ranch would send the best cowboys they had. There was no prize money then. The cowboys were competing only for the honor and prestige of the ranches they worked for, and their bosses who owned those ranches. Any money they might have made from these competitions came from betting amongst themselves on who was the better "Cow-hand".
The first recorded rodeo was held in Arizona in 1864. The sport has not changed very much in all the years since that time. Rodeo is one of the only sports in the world to have originated from the skills required in a working situation, but it is more than just a sport--it's a lifestyle. It is a very definite way of life. Cowboys don't just compete for the money or prestige, but for the sake of competing. Unlike any other sport, a Rodeo Cowboy does not get paid by anyone for just competing. He only gets paid if he wins or places in the event he is competing in. Otherwise, the only thing he or she takes home, is the applause of the audience. Sometimes, that can mean just as much. Not as good as a paycheck, but it certainly is appreciated by the cowboys and cowgirls who compete, to realize that they are appreciated not only for their ability to win, but just as much for their ability to TRY.
There is professional rodeo and amateur rodeo. The only difference is the amount of prize money available and the level and ability of the competitors as well as the livestock that are used. A bull that bucks well enough to be used in a professional rodeo, would be too good for an amateur rodeo. All professional rodeos are governed by the Professional Rodeo Cowboy's Association or PRCA. There are numerous amateur associations and organizations which govern amateur rodeos. We are going to be specifically addressing PRCA rodeos.
Until 1936, there was no sanctioning body to govern how rodeos were done. Cowboys were concerned that judging was not being fair, nor was prize money being given out fairly and in enough quantity. The PRCA began as the Cowboy's Turtle Association in 1936, when the Cowboys who were competing at the Boston Gardens Rodeo refused to compete until they were assured of having fair prize money and equality in judging. Legend has it, that they called themselves the Cowboy's Turtle Association because they were slow in organizing themselves. In 1945, the name was changed to the Rodeo Cowboys Association, which was later changed to the Professional Rodeo Cowboy's Association or PRCA in 1975. Information and pictures that follow were reprinted with permission from the Professional Rodeo Cowboy's Association.
The events in the first rodeos were comprised mainly of the working activities of the ranch cowboys: riding bucking horses and roping steers, cows and calves. As time went on, rodeo changed as well, and expanded to include events that did not really have an origin in the working cowboy's life, but were great competitions. Rodeo competition can be divided into two categories: Roughstock and Timed Events.
The ROUGHSTOCK EVENTS consist of Saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding and bullriding. In these events, the cowboy must ride for 8 seconds in order to have a qualified ride. He may only use one hand to secure himself to the animal, and may not touch the animal with his other hand. Only in bullriding does the cowboy NOT have to spur the animal he is riding. In saddle bronc and bareback bronc riding, the cowboy must also spur the animal in time with his rhythm of bucking. If he spurs the bull while riding, he gets extra points, but he doesn't have to. The cowboy is scored by two judges. The judges score the cowboy on a 100 points basis. Each judge scores the cowboy from 1 to 25 points for how well he rides and they also give the horse or bull from 1 to 25 points for how well he bucks. The harder the animal bucks, the higher the cowboy's overall score. There has been only one 100 point bullride in the history of rodeo.
Next we look at the various events.