Rodeo Terminology

Added money: rodeo is different most other sports in that it’s pay-to-play: at most rodeos, every contestant pays an entry fee, and those entry fees are part of the prize money for that event; added money (also called the committee purse) is what the local rodeo committee may put in for each event, which in the long run usually comes from sponsors

Average: usually used to describe the aggregate score for a contestant who

competed in more than one round, e.g., «He had times of 9.3 and 9.8 seconds in the two rounds and placed third in the average with 19.1 seconds on two head.

Barrelman: an entertainer who, after a bull ride, uses a barrel to distract the bull and protect the cowboy

Barrier: in timed events, a line at the front of the box that the contestant and his horse cannot cross until the steer or calf has a head start, usually marked with a rope and a flag so the timers can see it drop and start the clock

Box: in a timed event, the area a horse and rider back into before they make a roping or steer wrestling run

Breaking the barrier: in the timed events, if the roper or steer wrestler leaves the box too soon – failing to give the animal enough of a head start – he is assessed a 10-second penalty

Bronc rein: a saddle bronc rider holds onto a bronc rein, a six-foot braided rope, at a specific position that he determines based on the size and bucking habits of the horse he’s about to ride; bronc riders often give each other advice about the best position for that handhold to allow the horse its best performance, e.g., “Give him 3½ fingers”

Bulldogger: a steer wrestler

Bullfighter: an athlete who protects the bull rider after he dismounts or is bucked off by distracting the bull and directing its attention to the exit gate, sometimes stepping between the bull and the bull rider

Calf roper: a tie-down roper

Chute: a pen that holds an animal safely in position

Covering: in the roughstock events, staying on for at least the minimum time, eight seconds: “He covered all three broncs he rode last weekend.”

Crossfire penalty: in team roping, if the header doesn’t change the direction of the steer before the heeler catches, the run is disqualified

Dally: in team roping, each roper, after throwing his loop, wraps the loose rope around his saddle horn – dallies – and the two ropers move their horses to face each other, pulling the ropes taut to stop the clock

Day money: a portion of the roughstock (usually bull riding) contestants’ entry fees that may be used as a separate per-performance payoff for a multi-performance rodeo; all bull riders who make a qualified ride during a paid performance are paid an equal share of the day money; if they also placed, they get prize money in addition to day money; if there are no qualified rides during a performance, the day money is added to the total payout for that event

Draw: each roughstock competitor who enters a PRCA rodeo is assigned a specific bucking horse or bull in a random draw conducted at PRCA headquarters three days before the rodeo; each timed-event contestant is assigned a calf or steer in a random draw on site, shortly before each performance of a rodeo begins

Drop: in roughstock events, the way a bucking horse or bull may lower its front end suddenly while kicking out in back, creating a more difficult ride; in timed events, the way a calf or steer may lower its head to avoid a catch

Equal money: many PRCA rodeos offer equal money in the team roping event, meaning that the committee adds the same amount to the purse for headers and heelers as for other contestants (rather than adding the same amount as the other events, to be shared by the two-person team)

Flags: judges in the arena drop flags to signal the timers to stop the clocks

Flankman: a cowboy or cowgirl who works behind the bucking chutes, adjusting the flank strap around the animal before the ride; the best flankmen and women are familiar with each individual animal and know exactly how much flank to give that animal to encourage optimal bucking

Flank strap: a soft sheepskin- or Neoprene-lined strap placed in the area where a human’s belt would go, it encourages the animal to kick out behind itself rather than rear up, providing a safer, showier ride

Go-round: many rodeos have more than one round of competition; each is called a go-round, and all cowboys entered in that rodeo compete in each go-round unless there is a semifinal, fi nal or progressive round

Gold Card member, life member: a 10-year, dues-paying member of the PRCA who has reached his 50th birthday, or a 20-year dues-paying member of any age

Ground money: if not enough contestants qualify for the number of places to be paid in any event, the money that would have been awarded for the remaining places is divided evenly among those contestants who did qualify (have a score or time); that money is considered ground money

Hazer: in steer wrestling, the cowboy who rides on the right side of the steer to make sure the steer runs straight

Header/heeler: the two partners in team roping – the header throws the first rope, over the animal’s head or horns, and the heeler throws the second rope to catch both the steer’s hind legs; roping only one leg results in a five-second penalty

Hooey: the knot that a cowboy uses to finish tying the calf ’s legs together in tie-down roping

Hooking: a generic term for any contact a bull makes with his horns to a person, object or another animal

Hung up: when a bull rider or bareback rider cannot remove his hand from the rope or handle before he dismounts or is thrown off the bull’s or horse’s back, his hand is “hung up” – a dangerous situation – and the pickup men or bullfighters will move in to help dislodge his hand so he can get clear of the animal

Judges: as in other sports, trained PRCA judges ensure that all participants follow PRCA rules; they determine times for runs in the timed events and scores for rides in

the roughstock events, record penalties for any infractions of the rules, and inspect the arena, chutes and livestock before each competition

Left (or right) delivery: many bucking animals prefer to stand in the chute facing a particular direction, so they can leave the chute in the direction they prefer

Mark out: in the bareback and saddle bronc riding, a cowboy’s feet must be above the point of the horse’s shoulders when the horse’s front feet hit the ground – if so, he “marked the horse out,” but if not, he “missed the horse out” and the ride is disqualified

Nodding: in the roughstock events, a cowboy nods when he is ready for the gateman to open the gate and the ride to begin; in the timed events, a cowboy nods when he is ready for the calf or steer to be released from the chute and get its head start

Penalty: in timed events, common penalties include 10 seconds for breaking the barrier and, in team roping, five seconds for a one-hind-leg catch

Permit holder: a PRCA contestant who has not yet won his first $1,000 at PRCA rodeos and successfully applied to become a card-holding member of the organization

Pickup men: two mounted cowboys who help riders dismount, release a bucking horse’s soft flank strap, and escort bucking horses and bulls to the exit gate after a ride

Piggin’ string: in rodeo’s tie-down roping and steer roping events, the small rope used to tie the animal’s legs together; in the pasture, this technique immobilizes the animal so it can be “doctored”

Pigtail: a piece of string attached to the barrier that breaks if a timed-event contestant’s horse exits the box too soon, not giving the calf or steer enough of a head start according to PRCA rules; this is called “breaking the barrier”

Rank: an adjective of praise and respect used to describe especially challenging roughstock

Reride: if a cowboy’s score is affected by equipment failure or a horse or bull that doesn’t buck to performance specifications, the judges may offer the cowboy a clean-slate chance on a different horse or bull

Riggin’: a suitcase-style handhold customized to a rider’s grip and attached to a molded piece of leather that is cinched, with a pad, around the horse’s girth

Rookie: a cowboy in his first year of card-holding PRCA membership

Ropes: the correct term is rope, not lasso, lariat or riata; most ropes used in ProRodeo timed events are made of strong yet flexible braided materials such as nylon/poly blends, and a cowboy may change his rope selection depending on the weather and the cattle; bull ropes and bronc reins are often made of sisal or poly blends

Roughstock: the bucking horses and bulls used in bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding, usually bred and raised for the job

Score: in roughstock events, the points awarded for the difficulty of the ride (bucking) and the cowboy’s skill in riding; in timed events, the length of the head start given to the calf or steer, which the judges calculate based on PRCA rules (each cowboy must calculate how much head start to allow the calf or steer to get before signaling his horse to leave the box; if he miscalculates, he will be out late and get a longer time, or will be out early and be penalized for breaking the barrier); when used to describe a timed-event horse (“That mare scores well”), it refers to the horse’s obedience in staying in the box until the cowboy signals it to start the pursuit

Slack: excess entries at some rodeos may be scheduled for preliminary (slack) competition, usually before the rodeo opens to the public

Spurs: the spurs used in PRCA rodeos have dulled rowels that do not penetrate the animals’ skin, which is several times thicker than human skin; see the PRCA and Livestock Welfare chapter for more information

Standings: a professional cowboy’s success is measured in earnings; cowboys may keep track of where they rank in yearly earnings in several sets of standings

Stock contractors: the companies that bring livestock to the arena for rodeos – bucking horses and bulls for the roughstock events and steers and calves for the timed events

Timed events: steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping and steer roping – events in which the contestant(s) who make the fastest qualified runs win

Triple Crown winner: a multi-event cowboy who wins three world championships in the same year; the most recent cowboy to do so was superstar Trevor Brazile in 2008 and 2010

Try: a noun used for both cowboys and livestock, denoting grit, determination, fitness, stamina and resilience: “Give that cowboy a hand – he had a lot of try.”

Turn out: a cowboy may turn out of a rodeo if, for example, he has a scheduling conflict; this is different from “doctor-releasing” due to injury