Most cowboys agree that bareback riding is the most physically demanding event in rodeo, taking an immense toll on the cowboys body. Muscles are stretched to the limit, joints are pulled and pounded mercilessly, and ligaments are strained and frequently rearranged. The strength of bareback broncs is exceptional, and challenging them is often costly.
Bareback riders suffer more abuse, suffer more injuries and carry away more long-term damage than all other rodeo cowboys. To stay aboard the horse, a bareback rider uses a rigging made of leather and constructed to meet PRCA safety specifications. The rigging, which resembles a suitcase handle on a strap, is placed atop the horses wither and secured with a cinch.
As the bronc and the rider burst from the chute, the rider must have both spurs touching the horses shoulders until the horses feet hit the ground after the initial move from the chute. This is called MARKING OUT. If the cowboy fails to do this, he is disqualified.
Making a qualified ride and earning a money winning score requires more than just strength. A bareback rider is judged on his spurring technique, the degree to which his toes remain turned out while he is spurring and his willingness to take whatever might come during his ride. It is a tough way to make a living, all right. But, according to bareback riders, it is the cowboy way.
Saddle bronc riding is rodeos classic event. Saddle bronc riding evolved from the task of breaking and training horses to work the cattle ranches of the Old West. Many cowboys claim riding saddle broncs is the toughest rodeo event to master because of the technical skills necessary for success.
One of the similarities shared by saddle bronc and bareback riding is the rule that riders in both events must markout their horses on the first jump from the chute. To properly mark out his horse, the saddle bronc rider must have both heels touching the animal above the point of its shoulders when it makes its first jump from the chute. If the rider misses his mark, he receives no score.
While the bareback rider has a rigging to hold onto, the saddle bronc rider has only a thick rein attached to his horses halter. Using one hand, the cowboy tries to stay securley seated in his saddle. If he touches any part of the horse or his own body with his free hand, he is disqualified.
Judges score the horses bucking action, the cowboys control of the horse and the cowboys spurring action. While striving to keep his toes turned out-ward. To score well, the rider must maintain that action throughout the eight-second ride.