- A bronco
Bronc riding, either saddle bronc or bareback bronc competition, is a rodeo event that involves a rodeo participant riding on a horse (sometimes called a bronc or bronco), that attempts to throw or buck off the rider. Originally based on the necessary horse breaking skills of a working cowboy, the event is now a highly stylized competition that utilizes horses that often are specially bred for strength, agility, and bucking ability. The event has provoked concerns among some animal welfare advocates that some of the practices used in the event may constitute animal cruelty.
Description of the eventEach competitor climbs onto a horse, which is held in a small pipe enclosure called a bucking chute. When the rider is ready, the gate of the bucking chute is opened and the horse bursts out and begins to buck. The rider attempts to stay on the horse for 8 seconds without touching the horse with his free hand. On the first jump out of the chute, the rider must "mark the horse out." This means he must have the heels of his boots in contact with the horse above the point of the shoulders before the horse's front legs hit the ground. The rider that manages to complete a ride is scored on a scale of 0-50 and the horse is also scored on a scale of 0-50. Scores in the 80s are very good, and in the 90s, are exceptional. A horse who bucks in a spectacular and effective manner will score more points than a horse who bucks in a straight line with no significant changes of direction.
Saddle vs. bareback bronc ridingSaddle bronc and bareback bronc styles are very different. In saddle bronc the rider uses a specialized saddle with free swinging stirrups and no horn. The saddle bronc rider grips a simple rein braided from cotton or polyester and attached to a leather halter worn by the horse. The rider lifts on the rein and attempts to find a rhythm with the animal by spurring forwards and backwards with his feet.
The bareback bronc rider does not use a saddle or rein, but uses one hand to grip a simple handle on a surcingle style rigging placed on the horse just at the horse's withers. The rider leans back against the bucking horse and spurs up and down motion with his legs, again in rhythm with the motion of the horse.
The horseThe bucking horse is usually a gelding, a castrated male horse. Because bucking horses usually travel in close quarters and are housed in a herd setting, geldings are generally less disruptive and more prone to get along with one another. However, mares are also used, and while a mixed herd of mares and geldings is a bit more prone to disruptions, they can be kept together without great difficulties. Stallions are less common, because they can be disruptive in a herd and may fight if there are mares present.
The modern bronc is not a truly feral horse. Most bucking stock is specifically bred for use in rodeos, with horses having exceptional bucking ability fetching a high price. Most are allowed to grow up in a natural, semi-wild condition on the open range, but also have to be gentled and tamed in order to be managed from the ground, safely loaded into trailers, vaccinated and wormed, and to load in and out of bucking chutes. The also are initially introduced to bucking work with cloth dummies attached to the saddle. Due to the rigors of travel and the short bursts of high intensity work required, most horses in a bucking string are at least 6 or 7 years old.
Animal abuse controversiesModern rodeos in the United States are closely regulated and have been responsive to accusations of animal cruelty. They cite various specific incidents of injury to support these broad statements, and also point to examples of long-term breakdown. However, in terms of actual percentage of injury rate, there appear to be no more recent studies on animal injury in rodeo than the 1994 study.
Nonetheless, there are powerful economic reasons to treat animals well. Bucking horses are costly to replace, a proven bucking horse can be sold for $8000 to $10,000, making "rough stock" an investment worth caring for and keeping in good health for many years. The issue of horse slaughter is not correlated directly to the rodeo industry, any unwanted horse can meet this fate, including race horses, show horses, or even backyard pasture pets. It is an issue that crosses all equestrian disciplines.
Flank strap controversyA "flank strap" (or, "bucking strap") is used to encourage the horse to kick out straighter and higher when it bucks. The flank strap is about 4 inches wide, is usually covered in sheepskin and fastens behind the widest part of the abdomen. Flank straps which hurt the horse are not allowed by rodeo rules in the United States.
However, a bucking strap has to be an incentive, not a prod, or the horse will quickly sour and refuse to work. A horse in pain will become sullen and not buck very well, and harm to the genitalia is anatomically impossible because the stifle joint of the hind leg limits how far back a flank strap can be attached. However, while the implied argument behind this claim is that pain "makes" the horse buck, in actual practice, irritants or pain in general actually interfere with a horse's ability to buck in an energetic and athletic fashion.
The city of Pittsburgh has specifically prohibited the use of flank straps as well as electric prods or shocking devices, wire tie-downs, and sharpened or fixed spurs or rowels at rodeos or rodeo-related events. Some other cities and states have passed similar prohibitions.
bronc in Danish: Bareback
bronc in Dutch: Bareback