Rodeo Events With Horses

When people think of a traditional cowboy, western style of horseback riding, the idea of a rodeo is sure to follow. A crowd of young cowboys and cowgirls gather together to show off all that they’ve learned and accomplished with their trusty steeds, and a lovely community is built with it. But what does a rodeo exactly entail? There can be a variety of events showcased and many do involve more animals than just the horses, but professionally speaking there are only eight recognized events. 

There are a total of eight events in a professional rodeo, but they don’t all involve horses. Bull riding, for example, is the act of riding an untamed bull with little more than a rope to hold on to, the goal is to stay on the bull for 8 seconds. However, the horses do tend to be the stars of the show, and these are their most popular events. 

Bronc Riding Events 

Bronc riding is the act of riding an untrained, sometimes untamed, horse with a variety of equipment. Similar to bull riding, the goal is to stay on the wild horse for 8 seconds with a few limitations, such as one hand must remain in the air for the duration of the ride. However, bronc events actually make up two categories: bareback and saddle. 

Bareback bronc riding is precisely what it sounds like. The rider is on the horse completely bareback, with the exception of a belt strapped around the horse known as a “riggin.” The riggin has a handle for the rider to hold on to, and that’s it. 

For a saddle bronc event, it’s pretty much the same thing with the exception of getting to use a saddle. The rider must sit in the saddle with their feet in the stirrups and hold on for dear life as the horse bucks and thrashes about. Both the bareback and the saddle bronc events have very similar rules and goals, but they are both equally dangerous and not for the faint of heart.

Barrel Racing 

Barrel racing is a completely different sort of event. These horses are exceptionally well trained with thousands of hours of practice under their belt. Often, these horses are some of the most expensive horses at the rodeo due to their specialized training as well. The goal in this event is to get around three barrels and back to the gate as quickly as you can, the fastest time wins. 

There are a few limitations, though. You can’t knock over a barrel, some rodeos will simply disqualify you for doing so, but most will just add a penalty to your overall time. The most common penalty is five seconds but there can be various times depending on where you’re competing. 

You do have the freedom of choosing which of the two barrels in front you go around first, as some horses have a better capability on one side than the other, just like humans. The most important thing is to go around the third barrel, the tip of the triangle furthest away from you, last. Beyond that, don’t knock anything over, don’t fall off, and have fun. 

Roping Events 

It’s almost unfair to group all of these events together, as there are several roping events that can take place at a rodeo. However, professionally speaking, there are three recognized events: Team roping, breakaway roping, and calf roping. 

Team roping consists of two horses and two riders, a header and a heeler. There’s a lot that goes into this event, but the idea is that a steer is released from a chute shortly before the two riders get released. One rider, the header, is in charge of wrapping their rope around the steer’s antlers, while the heeler is in charge of roping the heels of the back legs. The fastest and most efficient time wins. It’s also worth noting that this causes absolutely no harm to the steer, and the same steer is rarely reused more than twice.

Breakaway roping is often a women’s event, but men can usually participate, too. This event consists of a calf getting a headstart out of a chute, shortly followed by the rider and their trusty steed. The goal is to get the rope around the calf’s neck, and the rope then “breaks away” from the rider’s grip so the calf can keep running. The fastest time 

wins, assuming there were no penalties. The main penalty risk for this event is taking off before the calf gets an adequate head start. 

Finally, calf roping is often reserved as a men’s event, but sometimes women can participate, too. The idea is very similar to breakaway roping, except that the rope doesn’t break away, the rider has to rope the calf then get off and tie their pigging string around three of the calf’s legs. The calf must remain tied on the ground for six seconds in order for the run to count, the fastest time wins. 


Some of these events can sound as if an animal is being caused harm, which is a common misconception with rodeos. You can be rest assured that any reputable rodeo association takes great care in the welfare of all of their animals and their riders. You can be disqualified and removed quite easily from a rodeo if they even suspect you have mistreated an animal or even a fellow competitor in any way. Rodeos are great fun and one of the highlights of the western riding style. The horses in these rodeos are often the main event, and their talent and beauty is surely something to behold.