Bareback Riding

how the event works

Bareback bronc riding is perhaps the rodeo’s original and oldest sport. Dating back to the early days of the Wild West, ranchers would need horses to help with their ranch chores, along with providing transportation from their home to town or wherever they needed to go. Because of this need, cowboys would find wild horses and “break” or tame them for their personal use.

With nothing more than a riggin’ and his arm, bareback riding is one of the most physically demanding sports in and out of the rodeo sports industry. A riggin’ is a suitcase-style handhold that is customized to a rider’s grip and attached to a molded piece of leather that is wrapped around the bronc’s girth. As the cowboy waits in the chute, they’ll make sure they have a tight grip on their riggin’ and that their feet are marked out before they nod for the chute to be opened. Marking out is where the rider must have both spurs touching the bronc’s shoulders until the bronc’s feet hit the ground after the initial move out of the chute. If the cowboy forgets to mark out or pulls his legs in before the bronc’s feet hit the ground, he is disqualified. As the bronc and cowboy bust out of the chute, the cowboy will pull his knees up when the bronc bucks, rolling his spurs up the bronc’s sides and straightening his legs to the bronc’s shoulders when the bronc descends. He will repeat this motion throughout the ride or, ideally, eight seconds.

Like bull riding and saddle bronc riding, both the performance of the rider and the bronc are judged to make the final score out of a possible 100 points. While the bareback rider keeps one hand in the riggin’ and one hand in the air, the judges will look at his spurring technique and the degree to which his toes remain turned out while he is spurring. For the bronc, the judges will take into consideration the bronc’s unique bucking style.

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With one hand in the air and the other in a riggin', or a suitcase-style handhold, the bronc rider must hold on for eight seconds.