Rodeo is a popular sport, or more correctly its a group of popular sports competitions. Rodeo has derived its traditions from cowboy roots. While strongest in areas where cattle ranching is strongest (the prairie provinces), though it has a strong followings in all regions of Canada. It also forms one of the strongest stereotypes of a "rugged Canadian" (right up there with Mountie, and lumberjack).
Rodeo preserves the traditions of ranching, where horses are used for both transportation and to control cattle in herds, and cattle need to be controlled in order to brand them, so they can be identified if lost or stolen. The various competitions compare how well cowboys measure up in key skill areas. Over the years, a number of the rules have changed, to make the competitions safer and easier for the animals. Many of the animals used in rodeo are bred for a specific competition, especially the bucking stock. See link to animal welfare in rodeo.
Some of the events are timed, and some are judged. For judged events, four judges are on the field, two for the cowboy, and two for the stock. Each assigns a score from 1 to 25, and the scores are added up for a total out of 100. Usually, a score over 80 is exceptional, though not always enough to win the event.
One thing almost everybody agrees on (even rodeo riders) is that is as much fun to watch as it is to ride, and a lot safer, too!
The newest addition to the Calgary Stampede, Barrel Racing is a women's event. In Barrel Racing, contestants circle three barrels in a cloverleaf pattern. Time is marked using an electric eye at the start and finish. Barrel Racing requires a good sprinting horse, a firmly controlling rider, and cooperation between the two.
More Barrel Racing Photos
Calf Roping gives the rider credit for the hard work of his horse and the co-operation of the calf. After rushing from the gate, the rider must intercept the calf, lasso it, throw it on its side, and tie three of its feet, all in the fastest time possible. The rider must anticipate the calf's moves, be quick and accurate with the lasso, and be able to tie a sturdy knot. Disqualification can result if the rider jerks the calf over backwards, or if the calf escapes the knot.
The steer wrestler's horse races beside the steer, as the rider jumps off, grabbing the steer by its horns in an effort to flip it onto its side. After grabbing the steer's right horn, the rider must land on his feet to bring the steer to a stop. Leveraging his left hand under the steer's jaw, he attempts to knock the steer off balance and to the ground. All four of the steer's feet must be extended on the same side to stop the clock.
More Steer Wrestling photos
Saddle Bronc Riding|
This is rodeo's classic event, and is a test of rhythm, balance and timing. Riders use their spurs (on the heels of their boots) on the horse's neck each time the horse bucks. A rider is disqualified for touching the horse or the equipment with his free hand, losing a stirrup or getting bucked off before eight-seconds. Scores are based on the cowboy's spurring effort, how well his toes are turned away from the horse, and the rider's control of the horse.
For riding competitions (saddle bronc, bareback, and bullriding) the animals are provided by the rodeo, typically assigned to riders by random draw. Riders want the narliest beasts to earn higher points (if they stay on for the full required 8 seconds). Riders in these sports typically need chaps to protect their legs, gloves to protect their hands, and nowadays several cowboys are also using chest protectors and helmets. For other competitions, the cowboys must provide their own horses, saddles, tack and lassos.
To become a full-fledged pro cowboy or cowgirl in Canada, you first must buy a permit, then win a certain amount of money, in order to buy a semi-pro and then a full pro card. To obtain a permit with the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association.("CPRA"), you must complete a notarized waiver releasing the association, sponsors and rodeos from any responsibility due to injury or property damage. To enter rodeos, a permit holder posts a $250 bond, refundable at the end of the season or when a full membership is acquired. To be eligible for a semi-pro card, a permit holder must earn $1,000 or $2,000 in two years. To be eligible for a full membership in the CPRA, a contestant must earn $1,000 in year one or accumulate $2,000 in a two year period on their semi-pro card.
Hamilton hosts the Western Rodeo in mid-June each year, at the Hamilton Events Centre (contact Steve Kosh (905-383-2020 x 22). In 2006, Hamilton hosted the Extreme Tour Rodeo at the Binbrook Fairgounds (end of August) 905-383-2020x22. You can also contact the CPRA (403) 250-7440 223, 2116 - 27 Avenue N.E., Calgary, Alberta, T2E 7A6