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Rodeo 101

In the world of rodeo, the Calgary Stampede is one of the biggest. This tournament-style competition has six main events, each with a daily payout of $10,000. The climax of the tournament is Showdown Sunday, when the ten semi-finalists compete for $100,000.

If you’re new to rodeo, it can be difficult to understand all the rules. To help you out, here’s a rundown of the six main events, courtesy of the Calgary Stampede.

BAREBACK

What it is:
An eight-second ride on a bucking horse, without a saddle or reins. Riders hold onto a rigging, a leather pad secured around the horse’s girth. Points are given to both the rider and the horse, but no score is given if the rider is bucked off before eight seconds are up, or if he touches the horse or himself with his free hand. Riders are marked on their control and how well they use their spurs.

Did you know?
The one arm holding onto the rigging absorbs all the force from the horse’s bucking. Riders have to be in top physical shape and maintain perfect balance to avoid serious injury.

BULL RIDING

What it is:
Riders must complete an eight-second ride on a bucking bull, using one hand to hold onto a rope smeared with a sticky substance called rosin. Points are given to both the rider and the bull, whose marks depend on how violently he resists the ride. No score is given if the rider is bucked off before eight seconds are up, or if he touches the bull or himself with his free hand. 100 is a perfect score, but in the history of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), it has only been awarded once.

Did you know?
Bull riding is the most dangerous event in rodeo. The real danger is after the ride is over—an angry bull will often try to ram a disoriented rider, which is when bullfighters step in to provide distraction.

BARREL RACING

What it is:
Rodeo’s only female-only event. Riders circle three barrels, creating a cloverleaf pattern. There is a five second penalty for every barrel knocked over, though riders can touch or move them. The fastest rider (once penalties have been calculated) wins.

Did you know?
A horse’s speed and coordination are vital, making a good barrel racing horse worth up to $50,000 US.

SADDLE BRONC

What it is:
Another eight-second ride on a bucking horse, but with a lightweight saddle. This event is less about strength, and more about finesse—riders have to spur in an arc starting at the horse’s neck going to the back of the saddle, and do it in tune with the horse’s movements. No score is given if the rider is bucked off before eight seconds are up or if he touches the bronc or his equipment with his free hand.

Did you know?
The bucking horses in Saddle Bronc aren’t wild, but trained for the rodeo and often come from a long line of bucking horses.

TIE DOWN ROPING

What it is:
A standard ranch chore, this is the most technical event in rodeo. A calf is released into the arena, followed by a rider on horseback. The rider ropes the calf, dismounts and ties three of its legs up with a string. Once the legs are tied the rider throws up his hands, stopping the clock. But, if the calf struggles free within six seconds, or if the rider jerks the animal over backwards or is unnecessarily cruel, he receives no time.

Did you know?
Tie down roping is a team effort between a rider and his horse. While the rider runs to flip the calf and tie its legs, the horse has to keep the rope around the calf’s neck taut. This can require some maneuvering, and horses have to be trained to walk backwards until the rope has the right amount of pull.

STEER WRESTLING

What it is:
A steer—a male cow that has been castrated—is released from the chute, followed by the wrestler. He rides up beside the steer, grabs its left horn and jumps to the ground, stopping the steer in its tracks. His final act is to roll the animal to the ground until it is flat on its side with all four legs extending, which stops the clock.

Did you know?
This is the quickest event in rodeo, lasting about four seconds. Its competitors also have a reputation for being large, causing it to be called “the big man’s event.”

The rodeo runs from July 4 to 13, starting at 1:30 pm. Tickets range from $23 to $320, and are available from Ticketmaster, 777-0000, or on the grounds.—Sally MacKinnon

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