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Copyright Mark Gunter

Photo: Mark Gunter

Saddle bronc riding is rodeo’s classic event. It evolved from breaking and training horses to work the cattle ranches of the American Old West.

The event requires strength, style, grace and precision timing. Every move the bronc rider makes must be synchronized with the movement of the horse with the objective being a fluid ride.  The saddle bronc rider holds  a thick rein attached to his horse’s halter and using only one hand, the cowboy tries to stay securely seated in his saddle.


Saddle bronc riders must mark out their horse as it comes out of the chute. To properly mark out, the saddle bronc rider must have both heels touching the horse above the point of its shoulders when the horse’s feet first hit the ground as it first jumps from the chute. If the rider misses his mark, he is disqualified.  He will also be disqualified if he losses a stirrup or touches his equipment or horse with his free hand at any time or if he is bucked off.  The rider must stay aboard the horse for a full 8 seconds.

Judges score the horse’s bucking action, the cowboy’s control of the horse and the cowboy’s spurring action. The rider must try to spur from the points of the horse’s shoulders to the back of the saddle. To score well, the rider must maintain that spurring action throughout the eight-second ride. While the bucking ability of the horse is quite naturally built into the scoring system, a smooth, rhythmic ride is sure to score better than a wild, uncontrolled effort.