ALEX VAN EVERY COVERS THE FOLLOWING RODEO EVENTS IN SOUTHERN ONTARIO
Bareback riding, originating in the rodeo arena, is one of the most bone-jarring events of the rodeo and is often the toughest on the cowboy's body with immense stress placed on the arm and back...but to score high points the cowboy has to look good while he's punishing his body! The cowboy holds onto the bucking Bronc with one hand in a rigging that resembles a suitcase handle on a strap. He has to hold on for eight seconds while spurring the horse. As with saddle Bronc riding, as the Bronc bucks the rider pulls his knees up dragging his spurs along the Bronc's shoulders and as the horse's front feet come back to the ground, he straightens his legs so the spurs connect above the horse's shoulders, ready to do it again for the next jump. As is the case with saddle Bronc, the rider must mark out his horse and his free hand must not touch his horse, equipment or body for the eight seconds. Bareback Bronc riders tend to receive more violent and less fluid and controlled rides than Saddle Bronc riders, and as a result they tend to do more long-term damage to their bodies than most other rodeo cowboys.
SADDLE BRONC RIDING
Saddle Bronc riding is called "the classic event of rodeo", originating from the task of breaking wild horses for use on the cattle ranches of the Canadian and American West. It has evolved for the rodeo arena and also become one of the most complicated events for the rodeo cowboy. It involves strength, timing and technique as the cowboy attempts to ride the bucking Bronc for eight seconds, holding onto only a thick reign attached to the horse's halter. He can only use one hand to work the reign and to help keep him on the saddle as he spurs the horse and tries to time his movements with the bronc's bucking in order to score high points. The cowboy aims for controlled fluid movements as he tries to precisely time his movements with that of the horse. Ideally, he spurs the horse with his toes pointed outward, landing them on the Bronc's shoulders as it's front feet hit the ground, dragging the spurs along its shoulders as it bucks again. The rider, then in sync with the horses bucking action swings his feet back to the point above the Bronc's shoulders for the next jump. The Saddle Bronc rider faces a "mark out" rule, meaning both spurs must be above the Bronc's shoulders until its feet hit the ground on the first jump from the chute. Failure in this means disqualification. Also, his free hand cannot make contact with the Bronc, his equipment or his body during his eight second ride.
Bull Riding pits a cowboy against a 2000 pound animal whose bucking is as unpredictable as its personality. The cowboy must hang on for eight seconds with one hand. In this case, it's a flat, braided "bull rope" tied around the bull's belly. His riding hand is wrapped into the rope and he cannot touch himself or the bull with his free hand. Strength, flexibility, coordination and a strong mental attitude are just part of the skills a cowboy needs to successfully ride a bucking, spinning bull. The Bull Rider receives points as the animal bucks but he is also judged on his ability to stay on the bull. Unlike Bronc Riding, the uglier the action of the bull, the more points a rider will score for being able to stay on. Each bull is different with its own personality and traits for bucking hard, spinning and changing directions. A cowboy who hangs on in a spin or who can hang on while turning the bull left and right can gain a higher score. It is in this sport where a cowboy is most likely to receive serious injuries. When the ride is over the danger remains as often, the bull comes back after the cowboy.
JUNIOR BULL RIDING
Junior Bull Riding is almost identical to Bull Riding except for the age of the competitor and the animal is a steer instead of a bull. The young cowboy is between the ages of eight and 15 and the same skills are needed to successfully earn a high score in the event. There are a few subtle differences with a Junior Bull Rider requiring a helmet for protection. Most riders will go on to be Bull Riders when they reach the minimum age of 16.