Learn the fundamentals of each rodeo event, down to the judging and scoring, as well as the records in each event.
RODEOHOUSTON® is organized into five three-day Super Series, two Semifinal rounds, two Wild Card rounds and a Championship round. Each series includes three rounds, with one round being performed each day. There are eight contestants in each of the eight rodeo events during the series. Each series advances the top four money winners in each event to one of the two Semifinal rounds, where 10 athletes compete in each event.
Both Semifinal rounds send the top four athletes in each event to the Championship, while the remaining six move to one of the two Wild Card rounds for a second chance at earning a spot in the Championship.
From both Wild Card rounds, the top one athlete in each event advances to the Championship.
The Championship includes all 10 athletes competing in each event. The top four advance and immediately ride again in the Championship Shootout Round to determine the event champion and the $50,000 payout.
Click on the below to learn more about each Rodeo event.
Perhaps the most physically demanding rodeo event, bareback riding tests the cowboy’s strength and ability to hang on without any assistance from equipment. Thus, the rider must rely only on his technique and training, in order to make it to the eight-second whistle.
A successful ride begins with the appropriate mount in the chute. The rider, lying flat on the horse’s back, must keep his front legs above the horse’s shoulders before its front hooves hit the arena dirt on the first jump.
When the chute gate opens, the rider must also keep one hand on the rigging — a leather strap placed behind the horse’s front legs — with the other hand in the air. If the rider’s free hand touches himself, the rigging, or the horse, at any point during the ride, he will be disqualified.
Both the horse and the rider are judged in this event. For the duration of the ride, the cowboy should continually spur in rhythm with the horse’s bucking action. This helps the rider maintain stability and proper form. If the horse fails to buck or performs poorly, the rider may be offered a re-ride on a different horse, selected by stock contractors before every performance.
This all-women’s rodeo event requires a team effort between the horse and the rider. In a race against the clock, the cowgirl guides her horse through a cloverleaf pattern — three barrels arranged in a triangle formation.
Running full-speed into the arena, the rider has the option to drive her horse to either the left barrel or the right barrel, first. In an ideal situation, the rider makes sharp turns around each barrel without knocking any over. If the rider knocks over a barrel, a five second penalty will be added to the final time. In an event where every second counts, there is no room for error.
The newest RODEOHOUSTON event, Breakaway Roping, is a variation of calf roping, starting with a roper in the box and a calf in the chute. When the roper nods to release the calf, it is given a head start and the clock starts running. The roper must rope the calf with a “bell collar catch” and stop their horse. When the rope is pulled tight, it “breaks away” from the saddle where it is tied with a piece of string. When the string breaks, the calf is released and the clock stops.
Most breakaway runs last between 2 and 4 seconds. Not giving the calf the proper head start will result in a broken barrier and a 10 second penalty. An illegal catch, like roping feet in the loop, will result in a no-time. Only the calf is allowed to break the rope free from the saddle, if the roper manually releases the rope, it will also result in a no-time.
Breakaway roping is used in many aspects of horse training and practice. It can be a tool to teach a tie-down roping horse to stop correctly, or a way for kids to start learning the fundamentals. The RODEOHOUSTON event will feature only female competitors and is sanctioned by the WPRA.
In bull riding, the cowboy’s physical strength and ability is tested as he faces-off with a bull weighing up to 2,000 pounds with one goal in mind, to send the rider flying.
Holding on to a bull rope with just one hand, this event requires intense concentration and balance from the bull rider. A bull rope is a flat, braided rope that wraps around the bull’s torso. A weighted metal bell hangs in the middle of the rope and falls free from the animal when the cowboy lets go. Similar to other rough stock events, bull riders will be disqualified if their free hand touches himself, the bull rope or the animal at any point during the ride.
This event is judged on a 100-point scale and takes into account the performance of both the rider and the bull. If the rider is lucky enough to make it to the eight second whistle, he will be judged on his ability to maintain control and correct form during the ride. The bull, on the other hand, will be judged on his athleticism and bucking action.
Saddle bronc riding traces its roots back to the Old West when cowboys would throw saddles on wild horses to break and train them for their cattle ranches. While the rough stock event has evolved over time, saddle bronc riding is considered to be rodeo’s classic event.
From the moment the chute gate opens, cowboys must maintain control of the horse and sit snug in the saddle while holding on to a thickly-braided rein attached to the horse’s halter. The rider must also keep his free hand in the air and his feet in the stirrups while spurring in rhythm with the horse’s jumps. If the rider loses his stirrups or if his free hand touches the rein or the horse at any point during the ride, he will be disqualified.
In saddle bronc riding, the heels of the rider’s front feet must remain above the horse’s shoulders until the horse completes its first jump. If the rider successfully maintains control and draws an athletic horse, he is sure to ride his way to victory.
In this speed-driven event, cowboys use their strength and body weight to tackle and flip a runaway steer weighing up to 600 pounds. Also called “bulldogging,” steer wrestling is one of the fastest events in rodeo, with a RODEOHOUSTON record of 3.2 seconds.
Cowboys test their luck, athletic ability and technique during this event. Starting out in a holding pen, commonly referred to as the “box,” the steer wrestler and his horse, waiting patiently behind a rope barrier next to a steer in a chute, are ready to run. When the chute gate opens, the steer charges forward and the timer starts. When the steer is a certain distance from the box, the barrier is tripped and the steer wrestler begins to chase after the steer. If the steer wrestler leaves the box too soon and “trips the barrier,” he receives a 10-second penalty.
With the assistance of a hazer, a second cowboy on horseback who keeps the steer running in a straight line, steer wrestlers dismount their horse, hook their arms around the steer’s horns, dig their feet in the ground and flip the steer on its back. The clock only stops when the steer is completely flat on the ground with all four legs pointing in the same direction.
Tie-down roping was inspired by the traditional method cowboys use to gather cattle for medical treatment or branding when chutes and working pens were not readily available. This timed event requires the horse and its rider to be in sync, working together to catch and tie-down the runaway calf, who is allowed a head start.
When the calf reaches a certain distance from the chute, it trips a lever releasing the barrier on the roping box. When the barrier is released, the roper and his horse take off in hot pursuit. In a matter of seconds, the cowboy swings the rope over his head, launching it forward around the calf’s neck. The horse then slides to a halt, allowing the roper to dismount and run toward the calf. Reaching the calf, the roper quickly flips it over and begins to tie any three of the calf’s legs. Once the calf is tied, the roper throws his hands in the air, stopping the clock.
A 10-second penalty is added if the horse and his rider break the barrier. In order for the roper’s time to be recorded, the calf must stay tied for an official six seconds, from the time the roper remounts the horse. If the calf comes untied during this time, the team will receive a no-time.
Team roping is the only rodeo event that allows cowboys to work together in the arena. In this timed event, teamwork and trust are vital, as anything can happen when the steer is released from the chute.
The first roper, also called the header, is positioned to the left of the steer, with the second roper, or the heeler, to the right of the steer. When the header leaves the roping box, he must first rope the steer around both horns before the heeler can throw his rope around the steer’s back legs. If the header misses, the team receives a no-score.
If the header catches, he must loop or “dally” his rope around the saddle horn, turning the steer for the heeler to catch. If the heeler only catches one leg, the team will be penalized by five seconds. The team also will be penalized if the header leaves the box too soon, breaking the barrier. Time is called when both horses turn to face each other, with no slack in the ropes, holding the steer.
Defyin’ Gravity Awards
Rodeo events require intense mental concentration from cowboys and cowgirls trying to defy the odds and beat the clock. Sometimes though, the ride does not go as planned and contestants are faced with not so graceful dismounts and jumps a little too high. The hardworking cowboys and cowgirls end their mission with the same kind of weightlessness than an astronaut feels in space.
The Defyin’ Gravity Awards recognize contestants with the wildest rides and the toughest luck, regardless of whether or not they beat the clock. Rodeo fans watch the replays and use an applause meter to determine who had the roughest ride of the night.
Nightly Defyin’ Gravity Award winners receive a travel voucher and are entered to win the ultimate Defyin’ Gravity Award – one year’s worth of travel funds, sponsored by Axiom Space. The ultimate Defyin’ Gravity contestant from RODEOHOUSTON will be decided by audience members during the Super Series Championship Round on Sunday, March 19.
The voices of RODEOHOUSTON are the pulse of the Rodeo with distinctive voices, wit and continuous tidbits of information. With the best rodeo athletes competing at RODEOHOUSTON, it is only fitting that the Rodeo features top announcers.
- Poolville, Texas
- RODEOHOUSTON announcer since 1982
- Brenham, Texas
- RODEOHOUSTON announcer since 1993
- Ocala, Florida
- RODEOHOUSTON announcer since 2014
- The Woodlands, Texas
- RODEOHOUSTON color commentator since 2011