A lot of people ask me what it’s like to ride a bucking horse. So, if you ever wanted to know…here’s your chance: saddle bronc from a ProRodeo cowboy’s point of view.
People describe riding saddle bronc as needing strength, agility, style and precise timing. But I think it’s mental even more than physical. You can make it as simple or as complicated as you’d like, and get in your own way thinking about bad rides or good rides. But to win, you’ve got to have your head on straight, keep focused and stay positive.
Trying to have a controlled ride on a bucking horse and staying focused can be a challenge! That’s why a lot of guys think it’s the toughest rodeo event to master. When I’m sitting there and the gate is about to open, I can’t think about anything. I just focus and let my body do what I’ve trained it to do. If I think about what comes next, by the time the horse makes its move and I need to react, its already too late. You just have to do it.
Once you’re ready, the horse is let out of the gate bucking at quick speeds. Those eight seconds are like a cross between BMX freestyle and a UFC match!
The goal is to have a smooth, rhythmic ride while the horse tries its best to throw you off and you try your best to synchronize your movements with the bucking. You have to start with your feet over the bronc’s shoulders to give the horse the advantage and then continue to mark the horse, a technique involving running your legs up and down as the horse bucks. At the same time, you’re holding onto the reins with one hand while the other hand is required to be up in the air. If a guy touches the horse, his equipment or even himself with the hand that should up, he is disqualified. That’s strength and agility there.
One of the biggest challenges is the horse you get assigned. That’s because half the score is determined by the horse and how much it bucks, and the other half is based on what the cowboy does. For each ride, four judges give a score of up to 25 points – two score the horse and two the cowboy. Those are combined for your total, with the highest possible score of 100. As you can imagine, a perfect score is hard to get. There’s not one documented 100 point score in the history of the PRCA. My career best is one that holds the Albuquerque, N.M., arena record at 90 points.
Now you know more about what goes into the event I think is the most exciting, bar none. Who’s ready to give it a go and try their own hand at riding a bucking horse?