Bronc riding, either bareback bronc or saddle bronc competition, is a rodeo event that involves a rodeo participant riding on a horse (sometimes called a bronc or bronco), that attempts to throw or buck off the rider. Originally based on the necessary horse breaking skills of a working cowboy, the event is now a highly stylized competition that utilizes horses that often are specially bred for strength, agility, and bucking ability
DescriptionEach competitor climbs onto a horse, which is held in a small pipe or wooden enclosure called a bucking chute. When the rider is ready, the gate of the bucking chute is opened and the horse bursts out and begins to buck. The rider attempts to stay on the horse for eight seconds without touching the horse with his free hand. On the first jump out of the chute, the rider must “mark the horse out.” This means he must have the heels of his boots in contact with the horse above the point of the shoulders before the horse’s front legs hit the ground. A rider that manages to complete a ride is scored on a scale of 0-50 and the horse is also scored on a scale of 0-50. Scores in the 80s are very good, and in the 90s, are exceptional. A horse who bucks in a spectacular and effective manner will score more points than a horse who bucks in a straight line with no significant changes of direction.
Bareback vs. Saddle bronc riding
Bareback and Saddle bronc styles are very different. In saddle bronc, the rider uses a specialized saddle with free swinging stirrups and no horn. The saddle bronc rider grips a simple rein braided from cotton or polyester and attached to a leather halter worn by the horse. The rider lifts on the rein and attempts to find a rhythm with the animal by spurring forwards and backwards with his feet in a sweeping motion from shoulder to flank.
The bareback rider does not use a saddle or rein, but uses a rigging that consists of a leather and rawhide composite piece often compared to a suitcase handle attached to a surcingle and placed just behind the horse’s withers. The rider leans back and spurs with an up and down motion from the horse’s point of shoulder toward the rigging handle, spurring at each jump in rhythm with the motion of the horse.
Bareback bronc riding began to develop as a professional rodeo sporting event around 1900. The riding equipment used during that era varied. In some cases, the rider simply held onto the horse’s mane, called a mane-hold. Others held a loose or twisted rope tied around the horse’s girth, and other methods involved using multiple handhold leather riggings based on a surcingle. In the early 1920s, when the old rodeo rules allowing two handed riding were being phased out and replaced with the newer rule of riding with one hand in the rigging and one hand in the air, Earl Bascom invented, designed and made rodeo’s first one-hand bareback rigging. The original one-handed rigging was made by Bascom from a section of rubber belting discarded from a threshing machine, with the entire rigging – the handhold and the body – all made as one piece. The handhold was folded back and riveted to the main body of the rigging, with a ‘D’ ring riveted on each side for tying the latigos. This rigging was first used at the Raymond Stampede in Alberta, Canada in July 1924. Bascom then refined the design, making his second one-handhold rigging out of leather and rawhide. Sole leather was used for the rigging body. Strips of leather, with rawhide sewed between, were used for the handhold with sheepskin glued under the handholds to protect the knuckles; this arrangement became known as “Bascom’s Rigging”.