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Bronc Riding: Balance, Strength And Agility

Bronc riding is referred to as a "rough stock" event in professional rodeo competitions. It's based on the skills that cowboys need to break untamed horses. When taming a horse, the cowboy would mount it, exacting control and authority by maintaining his grip when the wild horse would attempt to throw him from its back. Today, bronc riding has become an intensely-popular part of rodeo events.

Many people would be surprised to learn that the broncs used in this event aren't wild horses. Instead, the broncs are tamed and bred for bronc riding tournaments. Their natural strength and bucking ability make them perfectly-suited for the competition. But, despite having been bred in a controlled environment, the broncs are extremely dangerous to the rider. Below, we'll describe the 2 types of bronc riding events, how scoring works and the specific traits that make a horse a bronc.

Bronc Riding Basics

Bronc riding can be performed in 2 different ways: with a saddle or without. When a rider uses a saddle, the event is called saddle bronc riding. Without the saddle, it's called bareback bronc riding. Once a rider has mounted his bronc, he waits behind a barrier for the signal to enter the arena. Once the barrier is lifted, the bronc attempts to buck the rider off its back. The rider must stay on the bronc for 8 seconds.

In saddle bronc riding, the rider sits atop a hornless saddle. The horn has been removed as a safety precaution. In its place is a rein (usually made from polyester or cotton) that's attached to the bronc's halter. In bareback bronc riding, the rider has only a strap (called a surcingle) that is fastened to the horse's halter.

How Bronc Riding Scoring Works

In bronc riding (both with a saddle and bareback), the rider and the horse receive individual scores from the judges. This assumes the rider has successfully completed his 8-second ride without being thrown. The rider and horse are each given a score between 0 and 50 points. The highest cumulative score wins the event.

The horse is given points based upon its bucking performance. Typically, horses that buck in several directions during the 8 seconds receive a higher score. Horses that simply buck in one direction usually receive lower scores. Riders receive scores based upon their form and style during the ride. Scores that are above 90 are considered remarkable.

What Makes A Horse A Bronc?

Horses are bred and trained from a young age to be broncs. Rodeo promoters and ranchers have systematized the breeding process to produce horses that have a natural tendency to buck well. Plus, their size and strength make them extremely capable performers in bronc riding competitions. By the time the horses are ready for professional tournaments, they're approximately 6 years old.

Claims Of Animal Abuse

Many animal rights organizations have set their sights on the rodeos in general and bronc riding in particular. Groups such as SHARK (SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness) have openly claimed that bronc riding leads to the deaths of rodeo horses. They further argue that a wildly-bucking horse can injure itself while the rider's spurs can exacerbate the problem. In truth, broncs are well-cared for due to the high cost of replacing them. But, the controversy persists. As animal activists become more vocal in their concerns, we may one day witness the demise of bronc riding.