We want to help you become a rodeo pro! In every professional sporting event, there are terms you might become familiar with that will help you understand the sport overall. For example, in baseball, you have terms like infield, outfield, batter, etc. In soccer, you have offense, defense, goals, etc. In rodeo, it can seem as though the terms are endless and a little harder, perhaps, to understand.
Rodeo is a complex professional sport. Though you can watch the sport and hope that a cowboy rides for 8 seconds, there is much more behind watching that 8-second ride you might not realize. For example, you might see the cowboy make his 8-second ride but then wonder why he received a no score. It could be because he did not “mark out” his horse or perhaps he touched the horse with his “free hand,” both of which mean the cowboy won’t win this “go-around.”
We want to provide you with some rodeo terms to keep in your back pocket so the next time you make plans to attend our rodeo, you can share the inside scoop with your friends! Here are 29 key rodeo terms.
- Average: Usually used to describe the aggregate score for a contestant who competed in more than one round, e.g., “He had times of 9.3 and 9.8 seconds in the two rounds and placed third in the average with 19.1 seconds on two head.”
- Box: In a timed event, the area a horse and rider back into before they make a roping or steer wrestling run.
- Breaking the barrier: In the timed events, if the roper or steer wrestler leaves the box too soon – not giving the animal a head start – he’ll receive a 10-second penalty.
- Bronc: Synonymous to the word bronco, this term is used to describe an untamed horse that habitually bucks.
- Bucking: The rodeo word for a bull or bronc “kicking” in rough stock events.
- Bulldogging: Another term for steer wrestling.
- Bullfighter: An athlete who protects the bull rider after he dismounts or is bucked off by distracting the bull and directing its attention to the exit gate.
- Chaps: Made of sturdy leather, chaps are a garment designed to protect the cowboy’s legs during a ride.
- Chute: The pen that holds bulls, horses, steers and calves before each rodeo event.
- Cloverleaf pattern: The name of the pattern riders have to run in barrel racing.
- Cowboy nod: Indicates to the judge to start the clock and/or open the chute gate.
- Draw: Each roughstock competitor who enters a PRCA rodeo is assigned a specific bucking horse or bull in a random draw conducted at PRCA headquarters three days before the rodeo; each timed-event contestant is assigned a calf or steer in a random draw on site, shortly before each performance of a rodeo begins.
- Flank strap: A soft sheepskin strap that encourages the animal to kick out behind itself rather than rear up, providing a safer, showier ride.
- Free hand: A bull rider’s free hand is the hand he does not use to grip the bull rope during a ride. The free hand must stay in the air throughout the ride. If it touches the bull or the bull rider before eight seconds elapse, the rider is disqualified and receives no score.
- Go-Around: Many rodeos have more than one round of competition; each is called a go-around, or go-round, and all cowboys entered in that rodeo compete in each go-round unless there is a semi-final, final or progressive round.
- Hazer: This is the cowboy who keeps the steer running straight in steer wrestling.
- Header and Heeler: The header is the cowboy who ropes first in team roping, aiming for the steer’s horns. The heeler is the cowboy who ropes second in team roping, aiming for the steer’s hind legs.
- Hung up: This occurs when a rough stock rider cannot remove his hand from the rope or handle before he dismounts or is thrown from the bull’s or horse’s back.
- Judges: Like judges in other sports, trained PRCA judges ensure that all participants follow PRCA rules. The judges determine times for runs in the timed events and scores for rides in the roughstock events, record penalties for any infractions of the rules, and inspect the arena, chutes and livestock before each competition.
- Mark Out: In bareback and saddle bronc riding, a cowboy’s feet must be above the point of the horse’s shoulders when the horse’s front feet hit the ground – if so, he “marked the horse out,” but if not, he “missed him out” and the ride is disqualified.
- No score: This occurs when the rider falls off the stock before eight seconds in rough stock events or misses the steer in timed events.
- Penalty: In timed events, common penalties include 10 seconds for breaking the barrier and, in team roping, five seconds for a one-hind-leg catch.
- Pickup men: Two cowboys who help riders dismount, release the rough stock’s soft flank strap and escort stock to the exit gate after a ride.
- Re-ride: If a rider receives a low score due to poor performance from the bull or bronc, they will be given the chance to do a re-ride.
- Riggin’: This is a type of suitcase hold, customized to a rider’s grip.
- Rough stock events: This refers to the rodeo events that involve bucking horses and bulls.
- Spurs: These are dulled rowels used to persuade the animal to move forward and do not penetrate the animal’s skin.
- Stock contractors: The companies that bring livestock to the arena for rodeos – bucking horses and bulls for the roughstock events and steers and calves for the timed events.
- Tipping a barrel: In barrel racing, riders have to go around three barrels. If they hit or “tip” a barrel, they are assessed a 5-second penalty. If riders stop the barrel from falling over, they will avoid the penalty.
PHEW! We know that is a lot to digest. If you know these rodeo terms, you are one step closer to becoming a pro! Next time you attend a rodeo and are cheering from the grandstands, you’ll understand the terminology used and know what to look for during the events.
We hope you’ll join us for the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo in April!