Popular rodeo myths: Setting the record straight

Twice each year, thousands of people (locals and tourists alike) travel to Silver Spurs Arena to attend our rodeo. And while there are many repeat attendees, there are plenty of newcomers who attend that aren’t necessarily familiar with the sport of rodeo.

We have a lot of experience in putting on rodeos. We’ve been doing it for over 70 years! Over time, we’ve found that there’s no shortage of misconceptions about rodeo event scoring, the livestock, and what to expect when you attend a rodeo. So, to help answer some of those nagging questions and put your mind at ease, we’ve examined the most popular rodeo myths and are debunking them to set the record straight.

1. “Once you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all.”

Despite what you might recall from movies and television shows, bull riding is not the only rodeo event. In fact, in addition to bull riding, there are six other traditional rodeo events, all exciting in their own merit: saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding, steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping, and barrel racing. These seven events take place during Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association-sanctioned rodeos. Other smaller organizations put on rodeos throughout the country, and they may showcase just one event – usually bull riding or barrel racing. In fact, we host an event each February called Monster Bulls that features bull riding only. But at our Silver Spurs Rodeos and nearly all PRCA-sanctioned rodeos, you can count on an entertaining variety!

2. “Rodeo clowns and bullfighters are the same thing.”

During the rodeo, you’ll see four types of folks out on the arena floor – the contestants, the judges, the pick-up men, and a few clown-types. Of the men with painted faces, you’ll find two completely different roles. The “funny man” of the arena is known as the rodeo clown – he’ll crack jokes to entertain the crowd, and he might even have a “halftime show” up his sleeve. The other guys with painted faces are known as bullfighters. And while some days they might wish they were just cracking jokes, their role is to help protect the bull riders as they exit the arena after they dismount the bull.

3. “The flank strap hurts the rough stock.”

Per PRCA rules, during rough stock events, the flank strap is to be applied just above their hind legs (not their genitals, despite what most people think). In bull riding, the flank strap is a rope, while in saddle bronc and bareback riding, the flank strap is a 4-inch wide belt, covered in sheepskin or neoprene. The flank strap is used to encourage the animal to use its hind legs more in a bucking motion. This motion is safer for both the rider and animal – it’s better for the bucking bull or bronc to use its hind legs rather rearing up and potentially hurting the rider and itself.

Rodeos in Kissimmee4. “Cowboys ride wild animals during a rodeo.”

If you’ve ever watched bull or bronc riding, with how high the animals seem to buck (and considering the air they sometimes catch), we don’t blame people for thinking that these are wild animals. However, the stock used in rodeos actually live most of their lives out on ranches all around the US – free to roam, but at the same time accustomed to being herded by cowboys on horseback. For example, the rough stock used at our rodeos actually live on the Silver Spurs ranch down in Kenansville when they aren’t competing. So, while it may seem like we travel the open plains looking for the craziest raging bull, stock contractors actually spend a lot of time and energy breeding their best bucking stock to produce more. In the simplest terms, the stock just has to be born with the will to buck.

5. “Rough stock scores are only based on the cowboys.”

When you attend a rodeo, you’ll notice that during the rough stock events, the rider will (ideally) hold on for eight seconds and earn a score up to 100. But, while it seems like the contestants may get all the credit for their performance, the judges are actually scoring the performance of the rough stock as well. In all rough stock events, two judges watch the ride and give a score to both the cowboy and the bull or bronc, who can each receive a maximum score of 50, totaling to 100 possible points for a perfect ride. Most experienced bull riders should be able to earn a score of 75 points, or more but there have been a few bull riders who actually scored a perfect 100!

Hopefully this blog has answered some of those questions you might’ve been wondering about and, if you’re a newbie, helped give you a better idea of what to expect at a rodeo performance.