Get the 411 on Rodeo 101 – What Rodeo Judges Look For
We want to give you the 411 of rodeo 101 so that you can be in the know of what the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) judges look for while judging rough stock and timed events.
In the professional sport of rodeo, there are two distinct types of competitions: rough stock events and timed events. Rough stock events consist of bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding; timed events consist of steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping and barrel racing.
In any rough stock event, you should know that the animal’s performance is equally as important as the cowboy’s performance in order for them to score well. For rough stock contestants to earn a qualified score, they must be able to hang on – using only one hand – to the buckin’ horse or bull for a total of eight seconds! If the rider gets bucked off before the whistle, which indicates eight seconds has passed, the rider gets a No Score. In these events, the free hand is just as important as the one a contestant uses to hang on. If a rider’s free hand touches the animal, himself or any of his equipment, he will be disqualified, regardless of whether he makes it to the eight-second whistle.
When it comes to bareback riding and saddle bronc riding, a cowboy must “mark out” his horse. This means that when a cowboy exits the chute with his spurs set above the bucking horse’s shoulders, he must hold them there until the horse’s front feet hit the ground after the initial jump out from the chute. If the rider does this properly, it’s called “marking the horse out”. If not, it’s called a “missed horse out”, which means the rider will be disqualified.
Rough stock events are based on earning the most points. A perfect score would be 100 points. In a regular rodeo season, two judges will make up the cowboy’s qualified ride by awarding zero to 25 points for the rider’s performance and zero to 25 points for the animal’s performance. The judges’ scores are then combined to determine the contestant’s final score.
Unlike in rough stock events, timed events are not based on a point system. In steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping and barrel racing, speed is the name of the game. The faster, the better! These contestants not only race the clock, but also other competitor’s times. A contestant’s goal would be to post the fastest time in his or her event.
For steer wrestling and roping events, the stock must have a head start. The contestant will begin on horseback in a three-sided, fenced-in area called a box. The fourth side of the box is open and faces the inside of the arena. A rope, or what we refer to as a “barrier”, is stretched across the open face of the box, clearly indicated with a flag attached to it. If the contestant breaks this barrier before the calf gets a head start, a 10-second penalty is added to his time. A judge is standing by to start the clock once they see the flag on the barrier drop.
In barrel racing, a rider begins on horseback in the “alley” of the arena. The rider will race through the alley into the arena where a judge will be standing holding a flag that drops once the rider crosses the plane, which indicates that the clock has started. Once the rider has completed the clover-like pattern around the three barrels, she will race to cross the plane again to stop the clock. There is no penalty added for hitting or tipping a barrel; however, should a rider knock the barrel completely over, a five-second penalty is added to her time.
We hope you learned something new about the sport we love so much! Next time you attend a rodeo, you will have a better idea of what those judges might be looking for.
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