The 2019 Curry Merry Muster Festival Rodeo is once again partnered with Australian Professional Rodeo Association (APRA) to attract some of the best Cowboys and Cowgirls in the country. Below is an outline of some of the events in case you wish to know more.
To nominate for the Rodeo please refer to our Competitors section.
Born of the roughriders boast that he can ‘ride anything with hair on’, Bull Riding is the ultimate test of courage and strength. It is the most dangerous event in rodeo – not only from the ride itself but from a rodeo bull after the eight seconds ride. This can be all the more dangerous if the bull rider has bucked off or is injured and defenceless on the ground.
A successful ride on a top bucking bull seems theoretically impossible. Their strength and agility, weighing up to a tonne or more, puts the odds firmly with the bulls. The fact that bull riders do regularly make qualified rides on these spectacular animals is a tribute to their skill and – above all – their intense concentration and ‘focus’. A top bull rider needs strong legs, upper body control and lightning fast reflexes – there is no time to think.
The judges look for a bull rider using a combination of free arm, legs and feet for balance to keep him in the best body position during the ride. Spurring is not required but extra points are awarded for the use of the feet including the way they are used in response to the bull’s twist and turns to hold the body upright. The equipment used in bull riding is a plaited rope, with a handhold inserted, pulled tightly around the bull and held in place by the riders grip. A bull rider is disqualified for touching the animal or his equipment and bucking off – a regular hazard in this tough event.
Bull riders are not required to spur, and simply use their feet to pull themselves back into position or to hold themselves upright on a spinning bull. Bucking off ‘into the well’ – on the inside of a spinning bull – invites an immediate attack by the bull and is very dangerous. The rider tries to sit ‘over his hand’ during the ride. If he leans back he may be whipped forward as the bull bucks and is in danger from the bulls head and horns. Seasoned bucking bulls seem to feel and watch a rider’s every movement and know exactly what to do to throw him if he gets even a little out of position.
Developed in the rodeo arena bareback riding is the supreme challenge – riding a rough horse without a saddle or a rein. The high spurring action of the bareback rider produces some of the wildest and most exciting rides in rodeo. Bareback riding is generally considered the most physically demanding rodeo event, with possible injury to arms, shoulders and necks from the stresses on their riding arm – the one holding on to the rigging – and will strap or bind it to reduce the strain and possible injury. Barrel Race The original ladies’ event in professional rodeo, the contestant must cross the score line and run a clover-leaf pattern around three barrels and back across the score line to end time. Either barrel, on the left or right, may be taken first, but a contestant will be disqualified for not following the clover-leaf pattern. A five second penalty will be added to the run time for each barrel knocked down, but a contestant may, from a riding position, hold a barrel from falling. The time is generally taken with use of an electric eye to the hundredths of a second. Saddle Bronc Riding The ‘classic’ contest between man and horse – saddle bronc riding has its origins deep in history. When man first captured and tamed wild horses as a means of transport, for hunting and farming and as a companion – the contest began. Some horses would not submit easily to being handled or ridden and the legends of the outlaw bucking horse became part of folk lore.
Now, saddle bronc riding is a stylised, highly skilled, rodeo event. It is considered the most technically difficult rough stock event and still holds pride of place as the premier event on most rodeo programs. Every ride begins with the contestants feet turned out and over the break of the horse’s shoulder as it leaves the chute. The rider synchronizes his spurring in time with the horse’s bucking action. A perfect action, earning highest points, is with the feet starting in front of the horse’s shoulder then – with a long sweeping ‘stroke’ – to the back of the saddle, or ‘cantle’ as the horse bucks. The rider must then snap his feet back to the shoulder, turning his toes out to try and get some purchase to get his timing right.
Most points are scored for the spurring action from the shoulder to the girth, with extra points for a ‘full lick’ back to the cantle. A rider is disqualified for touching the animal or equipment with his free hand or if he loses a stirrup or the single rope rein. And, of course, there is no score if he bucks off. Equipment used in saddle bronc riding is the standard contest saddle and a plain head collar with a single rope rein held in one hand.
While roping and tying – or bronco roping and branding – has been a standard cattle handling practice in Australia since the 1870’s, the skills and techniques of single handed roping and tying was developed to the fullest in North America. Now, there are many thousands of ropers in Australia – roping competitively in the rodeo arena, as members of roping clubs, in ‘jackpots’ roping or using a rope as a tool of trade for day to day cattle handling. The essential key to roping and tying is the teamwork between the roper and a highly trained roping horse.
Given a head start before the barrier is released the animal is roped from horseback. The contestant then dismounts and runs to the animal, relying on his horse to keep it under control. After reaching and catching the animal it is thrown – or ‘flanked’ – onto its side and three of its legs are tied with a ‘pigging string’ that the contestant carries in his teeth during the run. If the animal is not on its feet after it is roped it must be let up and rethrown. As the tie is completed the judge records the time it has taken.
The contestant then must remount his horse and ride it forward to prove that the tie will hold to the judge’s satisfaction. If the animal kicks free before the judge rules a ‘fair tie’ no time is given for the run. There are strictly enforced provisions for the welfare of animals used in the event. A device is used on the saddle to ensure that the animal feels minimal impact. If the animal is pulled backwards off its feet the roper is disqualified and fined. If the rope horse drags the animal after it is roped there is an automatic disqualification and a further fine. A judge reserves the right to fine a competitor for any mistreatment of an animal.
Perfect timing and team work between a steer wrestler and his helper, a mounted ‘hazer’ is the key to fast times in this event. There is also the ability of his horse to ‘rate’ the steer and place the contestant just right for his leap and catch. It is the ‘hazer’s’ job to keep the optimum weight for animals in roping and tying is specified by the APRA as 115 kilograms. At the top level winning times are around 10 seconds to rope, throw and tie the animal, taken from when the barrier is released.
“Pretty Girls on Fast Horses”. Barrel racing is another timed event, where the fastest time wins. Whilst competing against the clock and other competitors, riders must ensure they follow the cloverleaf pattern correctly and leave all drums standing, each knocked drum will give a competitor a 5 second penalty. These horses are trained for months at a time to ensure they understand the pattern before they are required to do it quickly, they are often bred specifically for speed and agility to compete with the best opportunity of winning. Barrel Racing horses are often commended on their heart, and desire to run fast for their rider. Those who think “Diamonds are a girls Best Friend” have never had a conversation with a barrel racer who just ran a record time with her best friend and trusty steed.
Timed events make up over half of the rodeo program, with Breakaway Roping being another Ladies only timed event. Similar to Rope and Tie, the calf starts in a secure box, with rider behind them, the rider has a single rope in her hand, with the end attached to the saddle with string. The rider must allow the beast a head start, as per the ‘Barrier’ on the starting point. Once out in the arena, the lady rider must rope the calf in a clean head loop as quick as she can. Once she is confident with the catch, she stops her horse, causing the rope to ‘break away’ from the saddle, this is when her time is stopped. You will often see ropes with a bandanna on the end, this is so the judge can see the rope breaking away clearly, thus giving the rider a good time. The calf runs to the end of the arena, where the rope is removed and he/she is free to return to the yards.
The only event in Professional Rodeo that requires 2 members. Team Roping consists of a Header and a Heeler roper. They begin in the rope box, allowing the steer a head start as per the barrier on the start gate. Once out in the arena the Header must throw his/her loop first, too secure the steer by the head and slow him down for the heeler, the header will wrap the end of his rope around his saddle horn and turn off to the left, to slow the steers steps down. Once the header has turned, the heeler can attempt to catch the steers back legs. Once the heeler has heels caught he also must wrap or ‘dally’ his rope around his horn, so the team can display that they have complete control of the animal. This event originates from branding days, when this was the only way to secure a large steer in order to brand him safely.