Event Descriptions

Bareback Riding

This timed event was originally based on the necessary horse breaking skills of a working cowboy, the event is now a highly stylized competition that utilizes horses that often are specially bred for strength, agility, and bucking ability. The bareback rider does not use a saddle or rein but uses a rigging that consists of a leather and rawhide composite piece often compared to a suitcase handle attached to a surcingle and placed just behind the horse’s withers. The rider leans back and spurs with an up and down motion from the horse’s point of shoulder toward the rigging handle, spurring at each jump in rhythm with the motion of the horse.

Barrel Racing

In this event the horse and rider attempt to complete a clover-leaf pattern around preset barrels in the fastest time. It combines the horse’s athletic ability and the horsemanship skills of a rider in order to safely and successfully maneuver a horse through a clover leaf pattern around three barrels placed in a triangle in the center of an arena. The timer begins when horse and rider cross the start line and ends when the barrel pattern has been successfully executed and horse and rider cross the finish line.

Breakaway Roping

A a variation of calf roping where a calf is roped, but not thrown and tied. The calves are moved one at a time through narrow runs leading to a chute with spring-loaded doors. The horse and rider wait in a box next to the chute that has a spring-loaded rope, known as the barrier, stretched in front. A light rope is fastened from the chute to the calf’s neck, releasing once the calf is well away from the chute and releasing the barrier, which is used to ensure that the calf gets a head start. Once the barrier has released, the horse runs out of the box while the roper attempts to throw a lasso around the neck of the calf. Once the rope is around the calf’s neck, the roper signals the horse to stop suddenly. The rope is tied to the saddle horn with a string. When the calf hits the end of the rope, the rope is pulled tight and the string breaks. The breaking of the string marks the end of the run. The rope usually has a small bright flag at the end that makes the moment the rope breaks more easily seen by the timer.

Bull Riding

HELMETS AND VESTS ARE REQUIRED EQUIPMENT – in this timed event the rider must stay atop the bucking bull for eight seconds. The rider tightly fastens one hand to the bull with a long-braided rope. It is a risky sport and has been called “the most dangerous eight seconds in sports.” The rider mounts a bull and grips a flat braided rope. After he secures a good grip on the rope, the rider nods to signal he is ready. The bucking chute (a small enclosure which opens from the side) is opened and the bull storms out into the arena. The rider can only touch the bull with his riding hand. His other hand must remain free for the duration of the ride. The bull bucks, rears, kicks, spins, and twists in an effort to throw the rider off. This continues until the rider bucks off or dismounts after completing his ride.

Goat Tying

In this event the participant rides to a goat that is tethered by a 10′ rope to a stake. The rider then dismounts, catches, and ties any three of the goats legs together. The goat must stay tied for six seconds after the contestant has backed away from the animal. If the goat becomes untied before six seconds have passed, the rider receives no score. A participant may be disqualified for undue roughness while handling the goat, touching the goat after the tie, or after signaling completion of the tie a contestant’s horse coming in contact with the goat or tether while the contestant still has control of the horse.

Pole Bending

This timed event features a horse and rider team, running a weaving or serpentine path around six poles arranged in a line. Setting up the pole bending pattern is crucial to the success of this event. Each pole is to be 21 feet (6.4 meters) apart, and the first pole is to be 21 feet (6.4 meters) from the starting line. Poles shall be set on top of the ground, six feet (1.8 meters) in height, with no base more than 14 inches (35 cm) in diameter. The purpose of a universal pattern is to be able to track and compare times everywhere poles are run.

Queen Contest

One queen from each of the NHSRA’s 47 states and provinces will take part in the NHSRA National Queen Contest. Contestants will be judged in the following categories: Modeling (25 points); Personality (25 points); Appearance (25 points); Two-Minute Speech (50 points); Impromptu Speech (25 points); Horsemanship (50 points); and Personal Interview (50 points). The Contestants are graded on their performance by six judges.

Saddle Bronc Riding

This timed event also has its origins in the original skills required by cowboys to break horses. The saddle bronc rider uses a specialized saddle with free swinging stirrups and no horn. The saddle bronc rider grips a simple rein braided from cotton or polyester and attached to a leather halter worn by the horse. The rider lifts on the rein and attempts to find a rhythm with the animal by spurring forwards and backwards with his feet in a sweeping motion from shoulder to flank.

Steer Wresting

This event features a steer and two mounted cowboys, along with a number of supporting characters. The steers are moved through narrow pathways leading to a chute with spring-loaded doors. A barrier rope is fastened around the steer’s neck which is used to ensure that the steer gets a head start. The rope length is determined by arena length. On one side of the chute is the “hazer”, whose job is to ride parallel with the steer once it begins running and ensure it runs in a straight line, on the other side of the chute the “steer wrestler” or “bulldogger” waits behind a taut rope fastened with an easily broken string which is fastened to the rope on the steer.

When the steer wrestler is ready he “calls” for the steer by nodding his head and the chute man trips a lever opening the doors. The suddenly freed steer breaks out running, shadowed by the hazer. When the steer reaches the end of his rope, it pops off and simultaneously releases the barrier for the steer wrestler. The steer wrestler attempts to catch up to the running steer, lean over the side of the horse which is running flat out and grab the horns of the running steer. The steer wrestler then is pulled off his horse by the slowing steer and plants his heels into the dirt further slowing the steer and himself. He then takes one hand off the horns, reaches down and grabs the nose of the steer pulling the steer off balance and ultimately “throwing” the steer to the ground. Once all four legs are off the ground, an official waves a flag marking the official end and a time is taken. The steer is released and trots off.

Team Roping

This event features a steer and two riders. The first roper is referred to as the “header,” the person who ropes the front of the steer, usually around the horns, but it is also legal for the rope to go around the neck, or go around one horn and the nose resulting in what they call a “half head,” the second is the “heeler,” who ropes the steer by its hind feet, with a five second penalty assessed to the end time if only one leg is caught. Team roping is the only rodeo event where men and women compete equally together in professionally sanctioned competition, in both single-gender or mixed-gender teams.

Tie-Down Roping

The goal of this timed event is for the rider to catch the calf by throwing a loop of rope from a lariat around its neck, dismount from the horse, run to the calf, and restrain it by tying three legs together, in as short a time as possible. When the roper is ready, he (or, in some roping events, she) calls for the calf, and the chute operator pulls a lever opening the chute doors and releasing the calf. The calf runs out in a straight line. When the calf reaches the end of the rope, that trips the lever, the rope falls off the calf, and the barrier for the horse is released, starting the clock and allowing horse and rider to chase the calf. From a standstill, a rider will put his horse into a gallop from the box shortly after the calf leaves the chute, so that the horse saves valuable seconds by being at near-full speed the moment the barrier releases. The rider must lasso the calf from horseback by throwing a loop of the lariat around the calf’s neck. Once the rope is around the calf’s neck, the roper signals the horse to stop quickly while he dismounts and runs to the calf. The calf must be stopped by the rope but cannot be thrown to the ground by the rope. If the calf falls, the roper loses seconds because he must allow the calf to get back on its feet. When the roper reaches the calf, he picks it up and flips it onto its side. Once the calf is on the ground, the roper ties three of the calf’s legs together with a short rope known as a tie-down rope or “pigging’ string”. The pigging’ string is often carried between the roper’s teeth until he uses it. The horse is trained to assist the roper by slowly backing away from the calf to maintain a steady tension on the rope. When the tie is complete, the roper throws his hands in the air to signal “time” and stop the clock. The roper then returns to his horse, mounts, and moves the horse forward to relax the tension on the rope. The timer waits for six seconds, during which the calf must stay tied before an official time is recorded.