Vancouver Rodeo

top_image.pngRodeo contests are divided into two categories:  1) Those which are scored by a judge - the rough stock events of bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, and bull riding; and 2) Those which are timed for speed - barrel racing, steer wrestling and the roping contests.

Riding broncs and roping calves are the events that were born on western ranches.  Being able to rope a calf or steer on the open range was a necessary skill if an animal required attention.

In all the rough-stock events, the cowboy must ride for eight seconds to receive a qualifying score.  The contestant uses only one hand to secure himself to the animal.  He may not touch the animal, himself or any equipment with his “free hand” during the ride.  Doing so would result in an automatic disqualification and a “no score” for the round.

Two professional officials judge the rough-stock action.  Each judge awards up to 25 points for the contestant’s performance and up to 25 points for the animal’s bucking efforts.  The scores of the two judges are then added together to determine the contestant’s total score.  A perfect score is 100.

In all timed events - calf roping, steer wrestling, team roping, steer roping, and barrel racing - most contestants ride Quarter horses.  The calf or steer is always given a head start determined by the size of the arena.  It cannot be changed after the first animal has been released.

A barrier string stretches across the box where the contestant waits to make his run and is released when the calf or steer has gone the predetermined distance.  If the contestant breaks the barrier, he is assessed a 10 second penalty.

mutton.pngMutton Bustin'

Each year the Vancouver Rodeo puts on a special event for all young cowboys and cowgirls.  It’s an opportunity for them to kick up their heels and test their sheep ridin’ skills.  For some, it might determine if the sport of rodeo is in their future!

Mutton Bustin’ happens at each performance so be sure to cheer loudly for these youngsters as they ride like the wind!

Participants must be 8 years or younger and weigh less than 60 pounds to participate.

steerwrestling.pngSteer Wrestling

In steer wrestling or “bulldogging”, the steer is given a head start and automatically trips a flag when he crosses the scoreline. 

The “dogger” will be fined ten seconds if he breaks the barrier.  The “dogger” is allowed one helper on horseback, called a “hazer”, who keeps the steer running straight.  The “dogger” must catch the steer from horseback, bring him to a stop and twist him down by hand.  Holds of scientific leverage are used to throw steers of several times a man’s weight.  The judge will drop the flag when the steer is down, head and four feet turned in the same direction; otherwise, it is a “dogfall” (not legal).  Time is taken between the two flags.  If the steer is accidentally knocked down or thrown down before being brought to a stop or is thrown by the “dogger” by putting the horns into the ground (hoolihan), it must be let up on all four feet and then thrown again.

bullriding.pngBull Riding

Bulls are ridden with a plaited “loose” rope pulled tight around the rider’s hand, held only by his grip.  The rider will be disqualified for touching the bull with his free hand or bucking off before the eight second signal.  A rider is not required to spur his mount, but may receive additional credit from the judges if he does so.  If in the air when the official end of the ride is signaled, but still holding some part of the rope, the rider still rates a qualifying mark.  Bullfighting clowns, besides thrilling and amusing spectators with their comic and daring antics, are the bull rider’s “lifeguard” in this, THE MOST DANGEROUS event of all the rodeo!

Bull riding has become rodeo’s most popular contest.  It is not related to any ranch task, but looking at it from the standpoint of the animals, bull riding serves the bull population. 

The average bucking horse or bull works less than five minutes per year in the arena.

Human skin is 1 mm-2 mm thick; horse hide is 5 mm thick and bull hide is 7 mm thick.   

The flank strap is fleece-lined in the flank area.  The flank area can be compared to the waist of a human.  The straps do not cover the genitalia or cause pain.  If the strap were tightened too tightly, the animal would refuse to move, much less buck.

teamroping.pngTeam Roping

There are three types of legal catches:

1) Horns - Half a head but not with a figure eight around the horns.
2) Neck and Head - Half a head but not with a figure eight around the horn and the nose.
3) Any heel catch behind both shoulders is legal if the rope goes up the heels. This is called flanked or pantyhosed.

Catching only one hind foot receives a five second penalty.  There is also a penalty of 10 seconds if the barrier is broken.

Each contestant will be allowed to carry one rope and the header must dally to stop the steer.  Time starts when the steer trips the barrier which in turn trips the flag on the post next to the chute.  When the two horses are in line facing the steer and the heeler’s rope is dallied (snubbed) around the saddle horn, time is then taken.

barrel.pngBarrel Racing

The barrel race originated in Texas in the early 40’s using one of Texas’ most familiar items - an oil drum. 

The cloverleaf pattern was developed to standardize the contest, and the girls race against time around three barrels. 

Time starts with the drop of the flag as the rider crosses the score line or, when an electronic timer is used, the horse crosses between the two electronic eyes placed on each side of the arena.

The two barrels at the base of the triangle must be turned first in either order, then the girl proceeds to the third barrel at the point of the triangle, turns back to the score line to be flagged by the judge or timed by the electronic timer.

The entire race seldom takes more than twenty seconds, depending on the size of the arena; with a five second penalty assessed for knocking down a barrel.  

The prize money goes to the girl whose horse can run the fastest and negotiate the sharpest turns.

tiedownroping.pngTie Down Roping

A tie-down-roper and his horse represent the utmost in teamwork and coordination.  With a head start, the calf trips an automatic barrier tripping the flag over the barrier.  Time starts with the flag.  A ten second penalty is assessed if the roper breaks the barrier.  After the calf is roped, the horse stops and steps back, keeping the rope taunt.

The roper must throw the calf down by hand, cross three legs and with a “piggin’ string” tie with wraps and a “hooey”.  The flag is dropped when the roper throws his hands up, signaling for time.  The judge inspects the tie.  The calf must remain tied for six seconds.  Time is official when the judge rides away.

breakaway.pngBreakaway Roping

Breakaway roping is a take-off from calf roping to give women and boys another event to compete in.  Instead of the rope being tied hard and fast to the saddle horn a piece of string is used to attach the rope to the saddle horn. 

The event starts out like calf roping - except when the contestant ropes the calf, he/she stops, and the rope breaks free. 

A flag is tied to the end of the rope, and the time stops when the flagman sees the rope break free.  As in calf roping, if the contestant breaks the barrier, a ten second penalty is added.


Instead of saddles, a double-thick leather pad, called a rigging, secured on the bronc’s back is utilized.  ?No stirrups or reins are used.  Slightly off-center at the top of the rigging is a leather handhold.

Bareback riders roll their spurs up the horse’s neck, called “jerking their knees”, then throw their feet high and wide.  The rider must spur the horse over the break of its shoulder when the front feet hit the ground the first jump out of the chute.  Contestants must ride for eight seconds and not touch the horse with the riders free hand to qualify.

saddlebronc.pngSaddle Bronc

Rodeo’s “classic” event, saddle bronc riding has roots that run deep in the history of the Old West.  Ranch hands would often gather and compete among themselves to see who could display the best style while riding wild horses.  It was from this early competition that today’s event was born.

Each rider must begin his ride with his feet over the bronc’s shoulders.  A rider who synchronizes his spurring action with the animal’s bucking efforts will receive a high score. 

Another factor considered in the scoring throughout the ride is the length of his spurring stroke.  Model spurring action begins with the rider’s feet far forward on the bronc’s point of shoulder, sweeping to the back of the saddle, or “cantle”, as the horse bucks. 

The rider then snaps his feet back to the horse’s neck a split second before the animal’s front feet hit the ground.  Disqualification results if the rider touches the animal, himself, or his equipment with his free hand, if either foot slips out of a stirrup, or if he drops the bronc rein.

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