Cowboy Essentials: What Equipment Do Rough Stock Cowboys Bring to Rodeos?

When you pack for a road trip, what are some of the things you bring? Clothes, a camera, maybe even some snacks for the road… But if you’re a cowboy, you’re packing all of that and then some! Some people have this perception that roughstock cowboys just show up to a rodeo, the horses or bulls are ready, they hop (and hold) on for the ride, and then they jet off to the next rodeo. While many people have 9 am to 5 pm jobs, these cowboys have an eight-second job. Like with any other job, there are tools and equipment that you must bring to perform your task, or in this case, win big! In this blog, we’ll break down all the equipment cowboys bring to the rodeo that not only allows them on the back of the animals but the chance for a payday.


For both bronc and bull riding, riders use chaps to help protect them while they are mounting the stock in the bucking chute and after they’ve dismounted the animal. Covering the contestants’ legs, chaps are made out of leather and padding, with two or three fasteners they attach around their legs. You won’t have trouble spotting them, as they are often decorated in bright colors and fringe.

Helmet or Cowboy Hat

During each event, roughstock cowboys are required to wear hats (or helmets!) before, during, and after their ride. Now, obviously, the cowboys have some leeway during their ride. If their hat or helmet falls off, the cowboys aren’t fined or penalized.


In both bronc and bull riding, you’ll probably see contestants wearing vests. This is to help protect the cowboys from getting seriously injured if they are thrown off, get stepped on by stock, or are hooked by a bull’s horn.


In the traditional sense, spurs are used to spur on the animals they ride. But contestants have to be careful when they are marking out or holding on to the stock. If the spur is too long or hurts the stock, they could face a fine.


This is a suitcase-style handhold customized to a rider’s grip and attached to a molded piece of leather that is cinched, with a pad, around the horse’s girth. (Read more about the different types of bronc riding here.)


This goes without saying, but gloves help the contestants not only hold on to their riggin’ or rope, but also protects them from getting rope burn.


Roughstock riders use glue, called rosin, to help their grip on the riggin’ or rope. You’ll often see the cowboys apply it to their gloves and heat up the glue by rubbing it into the rope they hold onto.

Flank Strap

In both bronc and bull riding, contestants must apply their flank straps, an adjustable sheepskin-lined leather strap or rope (for bull riding), to the animals to encourage the animal to buck. Despite what you may have heard, the flank strap is not tied around the animal’s genitals, but around the hips of the bull or bronc. The stock that come to our rodeos are born buckers; they aren’t trained or forced to buck. After the eight-second ride, the flank strap is quickly taken off the stock by the pickup men.


The roughstock events are some of the most straining rodeo events on the body. To prevent injury during each event, contestants will wrap their joints, primarily their ankles and wrists. Many contestants will also use double-sided tape to help keep their gloves and boots on their person during the ride.


For saddle bronc riding, contestants will need to bring their saddle so it may be placed on the bronc they drew. It’s important that they bring their own saddle because saddles aren’t a “one size fits all” type of situation.

Rope and Bell

For bull riding, contestants will travel with a rope that is typically a 16-foot long braided piece of polypropylene complete with a bell at the bottom. When bull riders slide down on to the bull, they hand the “tail” of the rope to a friend to pull tight. Once its good and snug, the rider will position his hand into the handle of the rope, grabbing the “tail” and taking his wrap. When its all said and done, the bull rider should have 3 layers of rope in his hand. Once the ride is complete, the rider will undo his hand from the handle and the bell attached to the bottom of the bull rope, for added weight, aids in the rope falling off the bull.

Along with wearing chaps and a vest, if you look closely, you can also see the bareback bronc rider is using a mouth guard. 

bull riding at the Silver Spurs Rodeo

The PRCA currently has more than 70 rules and sanctions that protect the rough stock before, during and after the rodeo event. One of those rules applies to the contestants’ spurs, which limits the length of the spurs. 

At first sight, it may be hard to tell the difference between saddle bronc riding and bareback riding, but if you look at the contestants’ equipment (or lack of certain gear), you can quickly differentiate between the two. 

The above equipment is solely used in roughstock events which makes up bull, saddle bronc, and bareback bronc riding. The other rodeo events such as barrel racing, team roping, tie-down roping, and steer wrestling have different equipment that they bring for each of their events.

Curious to experience the Silver Spurs Rodeo for yourself? Check our event schedule to see when our next rodeo is and when tickets go on sale. Between the action-packed rodeo events and the family-fun activities, you won’t want to miss the rodeo when it comes to town!