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Rodeo - Timed Events

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Rodeo - Timed Events

A heeler makes a good catch in the team roping event.

Photo © Mary Vogt
Ask anyone who has attended a rodeo and they will tell you that it's an action-packed feast for the senses. The sights, sounds and scents of the arena combine to create one of the most exciting experiences in any spot. However, a rodeo can be confusing for the uninitiated. There are two main parts to a rodeo; rough stock events and timed events. Timed events are those in which a horse and rider team race against the clock to complete their event in the shortest time possible. A little background information each timed event will make your next rodeo a much more enjoyable experience.

Tie-Down Roping

Tie-down roping stems from one of the most traditional of all farm chores: branding and doctoring calves. In this event, the horse and rider enter the arena and stand in a square box called a roping box. A calf is loaded into a small, enclosed chute next to the box, and fitted with a breakaway rope around his neck. A rope barrier is stretched across the front of the chute, and, when the rider is ready to begin, he signals with a nod of his head. The calf gets a slight head start, and as soon as the barrier is triggered, the cowboy charges after the calf. He then tosses his rope around the calf's neck, bringing it to a stop. The cowboy jumps off his horse, runs to the calf, lays it on its side, and ties three of it's legs together with a pigging string. The calf must stay tied for a minimum of 6 seconds in order to finish the run. The cowboy that completes this entire sequence the fastest is the winner.

Team Roping

Team roping, as its name implies, is the only true team sport in rodeo. Two cowboys enter the arena and stand in roping boxes on either side of the chute. A steer is herded into the chute and fitted with a barrier rope similar to those used in tie-down roping. As the steer leaves the chute, one cowboy, called the header, tosses his rope around the steer's horns. Once the steer is under control, he turns his horse slightly to the side in order to give the second cowboy, known as the heeler, a clear view of the steer's hind legs. The heeler then throws his rope under the steer's feet, pulling up on the rope to secure both feet inside the loop. The team then stops their horses and backs them in opposite directions to tighten the rope and stop the timer. The team is penalized 5 seconds if the steer slips one leg out of the loop, and if either cowboy misses his target, they receive a no-time.

Steer Wrestling

Steer wrestling is by far one of the most physically demanding rodeo events. Each cowboy mounts his horse and files into the roping box. A steer is loaded into the chute and fitted with a barrier. When the cowboy is ready, he signals the gate man with a nod, and the steer leaves the chute. Once the steer runs far enough to trigger the barrier, the cowboy takes off in pursuit. He runs up next to the steer and leans over, wrapping his arms around the steer's horns. He then slides off his horse and digs his heels into the ground to slow the steer down. The cowboy then attempts to lay the steer on his side. Time stops when all four of the steer's feet leave the ground. If the cowboy breaks the barrier, 10 seconds are added to his final time.

Steer Roping

One of the newest events in rodeo, steer roping is growing in popularity. This event has its roots in the necessity to doctor larger cattle on the farm. Small calves can be laid down by hand, but larger animals require more muscle. The cowboy and his horse enter the box and wait for the steer to leave the chute. They run after the hard-charging animal, and the cowboy ropes the steer around the horns. He then flips his rope around the opposite side of the steer, and slows his horse down to gently trip the steer. Time stops when the steer is laying on his side in the arena.

Barrel Racing

Barrel racing is the only sport that allows women to participate at a professional level. In this speed contest, three barrels are arranged in a large cloverleaf pattern in the arena. Each cowgirl runs into the arena past an electronic eye that starts the timer. She then guides her horse around the barrels, completing either two left turns and one right turn, or two right turns and one left turn. After rounding the final barrel, she encourages her horse to run as fast as she can back to the finish line. Knocking over a barrel adds 5 seconds to the final time, and deviating from the course is a disqualification.

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