Never been to a rodeo? Here's your guide to Ogden's Pioneer Days Rodeo

Thursday , July 19, 2018 - 5:00 AM

OGDEN — Are you a city slicker who’s new to the Wild West?

For anyone who hasn’t had the chance to head down to Pioneer Stadium and take in a rodeo performance, the events may look a bit strange. 

Your standard Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo consists of seven main events with plenty of acts in between that serve as a sort of halftime entertainment. 

If you want to learn the lingo for yourself, check out the PRCA’s website for a quick guide on some common terms you may hear at the rodeo. 

Take a look at this quick guide to learn the basics of the events and why exactly these cowboys and cowgirls are trying to ride or wrangle theses animals. 

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Bareback Riding

Typically, rodeos will start with bareback riding, where cowboys strap themselves to horses that buck as hard as they can. If the rider makes it eight seconds, a buzzer will sound and he’ll jump off the horse. If they get the eight-second ride, they’ll get a score from the judges. 

Bareback riders are often times strapped in so tightly they may need the help of a pickup man — someone nearby riding a saddled horse — to help them off. 

Bareback riding is one of three “roughstock” events, which also includes saddle bronc riding and bull riding. 

In both bareback riding and saddle bronc riding, the rider must have their heels above the horse’s shoulders when they exit the gate. This is called “marking the horse out,” and if they don’t do this, the rider is disqualified.

Steer Wrestling

Fan of pro wrestling? Well, instead of people pitting themselves against each other, here’s a battle of man versus beast. 

Steer wrestlers give a quick nod of their head, and off they go. Two people on horses must react to a steer shooting out of the gate, and one of them will lean off their horse, grab the steer by the horns and try to take it to the ground. This timed event starts when the steer leaves the chute and ends when the steer has its back fully on the ground. 

The lowest time wins. 

If you look closely at the gate, you’ll see a rope closing off the area where the steer wrestler and his horse are standing. If the rider hits that rope before the steer is out of the chute, they have “broken the barrier” and will be given a 15-second penalty, which often times will put them out of contention. 

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Saddle Bronc Riding

In this event, riders have a little more control as they have their feet in the stirrups of a saddle and have a rope connected to the horse’s bridle.

Like other roughstock events, the rider must hang on for eight seconds, or else they won’t get a score. Riders can only use one hand to stay on during the ride, and if they use the other hand, they will be disqualified. 

Tie Down Roping

In this timed event, ropers will shoot out of the gate and try to throw their lasso around the neck of a running calf. Once they do this, the rider dismounts from his horse, runs to the calf and ties three of the calf’s legs together. The timer stops when the roper is done tying the calf’s legs. If the calf breaks free before the roper gets back to his horse, the time isn’t recorded. 

Much like other roping events, if the rider breaks the barrier, extra time is added. 

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Team Roping

Teamwork is essential to this next roping event, which features one “header” and a “heeler.”

When the steer is released from the chute, the header must rope the horns of the animal, which then gives the heeler the go-ahead to try and rope the back two feet of the steer. The timing ends when both the head is caught and the steer’s back two legs are in the air. If the heeler only gets one leg, additional seconds are added to their final time. 

Barrel Racing

As Shania Twain once said, “Let’s go girls.”

One of the final events during rodeos is barrel racing, which is another timed event where the quickest one wins. Riders circle around three barrels before turning for home. Riders have the option to go left or right to start but have to do a type of figure eight pattern before looping around the last barrel. 

If a rider knocks down a barrel, they have penalty time added to their run. 

Bull Riding

Last — but certainly not least — is what many consider to be the main event. 

Like other roughstock events, bull riders must hang on for eight seconds for a score and can’t touch the animal with their free hand.

But with this event, these brave souls are strapping themselves to often angry bulls that usually weigh over a ton. Instead of pickup men helping riders off, bull riders are often saved by bullfighters who distract the bull so riders can avoid getting stepped on and scramble to safety. 

Well, there you have it, folks. Now you’re all prepared to take in the sights and sounds of what will surely be the highlight of this week’s Pioneer Days celebrations.

Be sure to bring plenty of popcorn and your favorite pair of boots. 

Contact reporter Jacob Scholl at or follow him on Twitter @Jacob_Scholl.

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