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Rodeo and Gymkhana FAQs

/Rodeo and Gymkhana FAQs

The Figure 8 Flag is one of the most difficult, but skilled events that is ran as a speed event. The reason for this is because you are trying to run your horse around a barrel, while trying to switch flags with the one that is in your hand with the one that sits in a bucket of sand on top of the barrel, without dropping either of the flags. If you drop the flags, knock over the barrel with the bucket of sand you are automatically disqualified.

Here is the pattern and preferences for a left turning horse:  You begin with one flag in your hand.  You should have the starting flag in your right hand, since you will turn the first barrel at a right turn. When you get to the first barrel, you take the flag that is in your hand, put it in the barrel and grab the other flag that is sitting in the bucket on top of the barrel.  Now you head like greased lightning to the next barrel. To make your run smoother while you are heading to the second barrel, you should switch flag and reins to the opposite hands so that way the flag is now in your left hand and ready for that left turn that you are gonna make. As before, when you are making the left turn around the barrel, you stick the flag that is in your hand into the barrel, and grab the flag that is sitting in the barrel.  All that is left is the final run home. past the timing line.
















The keyhole is a 20 foot diameter circle with a slot 4 feet wide and 10 feet long. A starting line is set up to 100 feet back from the mouth of the slot. A rider’s time starts when the horse crosses the start line and breaks the timer.  The horse and rider run through the slot, turning a 360 degree turn, and running out through the slot and back across the finish line. The horse must not step on the white marked lines. A judge is appointed to watch for stepping on or over the lines.


                           Stepping on or over the slot or keyhole

                           Going off course

Horse and rider go through timing line to a cone placed 100 feet away. The rider can turn the cone in either direction, dropping the golf ball in the cone as the horse goes around. They then race back through timing line.  A rider will be disqualified if the golf ball does not go inside the cone or if the cone is knocked over. Any action by the horse or rider that causes the ball to be outside of the cone at the end of the ride shall be a “No Time” ride. The cone should be set on flat ground with no openings underneath the edges of the cone. If the ball rolls out from under the cone because of uneven ground, this shall be considered an illegal course, and the rider shall be given a re-ride.


Quandrangle is way to hard to put into words!  Have a look at this awesome diagram!

Horse and rider race through the timing line, and weave through a series of 3 poles set in a straight line.  The first pole may be passed on either the left or the right, with the next two poles passed on alternating sides. If the 3rd pole is passed on the right side, proceed to the barrel on your left, making a left turn, come straight across, and then a left turn around the other barrel.  Once you round the second barrel, weave back through the three poles and pass through the timer line.

Stakes to be set 100 feet apart with start and finish line 20 feet from the first stake. Upon signal from starter, rider starts from a running start and races to the second stake and makes a left hand turn around the first stake, right hand turn around the second stake, left hand turn around the third stake, then running straight past the finish line. The course may be run from either a left or right turn at the top stake, but proper sequence in the figure eight must be completed.

Nez Perce Stake Race

Nez Perce Stake Race course

The Nez Perce Stake Race is a type of pole bending race which is also a match race two horses race on identical courses laid out side-by-side, with the loser eliminated and the winner moving up the brackets to race the other winners. It is not a timed event.  It is one of five game classes approved for horse club shows by the Appaloosa Horse Club (ApHC).  The ApHC rules state that racing competition is traditional to the Nez Perce Native American people, however, it is unclear if this particular competition is derived from any traditional competition.

Pole bending is a timed event that features a horse and one mounted rider, running a weaving or serpentine path around six poles arranged in a line.

Setting up the pole bending pattern is crucial to the success of this event. The pole bending pattern is to be run around six poles. Each pole is to be 21 feet (6.4 meters) apart, and the first pole is to be 21 feet (6.4 meters) from the starting line. Poles are to be set on top of the ground, six feet (1.8 meters) in height, with no base more than 14 inches (35 cm) in diameter.  Poles are PVC pipe, and bases are either rubber or plastic.  The preferred colour for poles is natural white, but red, white, and blue ringed poles are allowed as well.  Solid rubber bases are preferred, but hollow plastic bases are allowed only if filled completely to emulate a solid base.

These are the measurements implemented and endorsed by the National High School Rodeo Association. The purpose of a universal pattern is to be able to track and compare times everywhere poles are run.

Good horsemanship is the foundation for success in pole bending and barrel racing. The horse and rider team must work as one in order to excel. Various methods are implemented in pole bending from the “slalom” approach to the “side pass” approach. Depending on the horse/ rider combination, the rider needs to experiment to see what method works best for their application.  When riding a horse through the poles, the rider must first look to where they want to go. It is essential that the rider sits in the saddle and uses lower body and legs to navigate their horse through the poles. Forward motion must be maintained in order to keep all of the poles standing. The use of the horse’s hindquarters helps the horse zigzag through the poles in a smooth weave.

A horse may start either to the right or to the left of the first pole and then run the remainder of the pattern accordingly.

Each contestant will begin from a running start, and time will begin and end as the horse’s nose crosses the line. A clearly visible starting line must be provided. An electric timer or at least two watches shall be used, with the time indicated by the electric timer or the average time of the watches used by official timers to be the official time.

Knocking over a pole carries a five-second penalty. Failure to follow the course will result in a disqualification. A contestant may touch a pole with his or her hand in pole bending.

Team roping
also known as heading and heeling is a rodeo event that features a steer and two mounted riders.Team roping not only requires the perfect timing of horse and rider, but also with their teammate.  Team ropers (a header and a heeler) start out in boxes on either side of the steer chute.  The steer is released from the chute and given a head start.  The rope that is across the front of the start box is looped around the steer’s neck.  When the steer has reached the end of its head start, the rope across the header’s start box is released.  If the header breaks the barrier before the calf gets his head start, then the rider receives a 10-second penalty.

The first roper is referred to as the “header”, the person who ropes the front of the steer, usually around the horns, but it is also legal for the rope to go around the neck, or go around one horn and the nose resulting in what they call a “half head”. Once the steer is caught by one of the three legal head catches, the header must dally (wrap the rope around the rubber covered saddle horn) and use his horse to turn the steer to the left. The second roper is the “heeler”, who ropes the steer by its hind feet after the “header” has turned the steer, with a five-second penalty assessed to the end time if only one leg is caught.  The clock is stopped when both cowboys have roped the steer, there is no slack in the rope, and the horses are facing one another.

Team roping is the only rodeo event where men and women compete equally together in professionally sanctioned competition, in both single-gender or mixed-gender teams.

Steer Wrestling is sometimes called “bull-dogging”.  It is an exciting event to watch, and a cowboy races alongside a 600 pound steer and wrestles it to the ground.  This objective is to catch the steer behind the horns, and wrestle it to the ground, with all four legs and head pointing in the same direction.  There are actually two cowboys involved in this sport, but only one is the “bull dogger”.  The start-out is the same as in calf-roping.  The steer gets a head start.  A rope is looped around the steer and across the front of the cowboy start box.  When the steer reaches the end of its head start, the rope in front of the rider is released, and that signals the cowboy to take off after the steer.  If the barrier is broken, the bulldogger receives a 10-second penalty.  When the cowboy rides up next to the steer, he leans across and slides down the right side of his horse.  Now remember, these animals can be going as fast as 30 miles per hour!  The cowboy hooks the horns with his arm and hand, and wrestles the animal to the ground.  The steer keeps in a straight line with the help of a “hazer”; another rider who runs alongside the steer and keeps it from moving away from the cowboy.



The barrel pattern

''In barrel racing, the fastest time wins. It is not judged under any subjective points of view, only the clock. Barrel racers in competition at the professional level must pay attention to detail while maneuvering at high speeds. Precise control is required to win. The rider is allowed to choose either the right or left barrel as their first barrel but must complete the correct pattern, allowing for turn changes depending on whether they are on the right or left lead. Running past a barrel and off the pattern will result in a “no time” score and disqualification. If a barrel racer or her horse hits a barrel and knocks it over there is a time penalty of 5 seconds, which usually will result in a time too slow to win. There is a sixty-second time limit to complete the course after time begins. Contestants cannot be required to start a run from an off-center alleyway, but contestants are not allowed to enter the arena and “set” the horse. It is required that the arena is “worked” after twelve contestants have run and before slack. Barrels are required to be fifty-five gallons, metal, enclosed at both ends, and be at least two colours. Competitors are required to wear a western long-sleeved shirt (tucked in), western cut pants or jeans, western hat or hard helmet, and boots. Competitors are required to abide by this dress code beginning one hour before the competition and lasting until the event is completed.

EVENT DESCRIPTION – As with saddle bronc riding and team roping, the roots of tie-down roping can be traced back to the working ranches of the Old West. When calves were sick or injured, cowboys had to rope and immobilize them quickly for veterinary treatment. Ranch hands prided themselves on the speed with which they could rope and tie calves, and they soon turned their work into informal contests.

As the event matured, being a good horseman and a fast sprinter became as important to the competitive tie-down roper as being quick and accurate with a rope.

Today, the mounted cowboy starts from a box, a three-sided fenced area adjacent to the chute holding the calf. The fourth side of the box opens into the arena.

The calf receives a head start that is determined by the length of the arena. One end of a breakaway rope barrier is looped around the calf’s neck and stretched across the open end of the box. When the calf reaches its advantage point, the barrier is released. If the roper breaks the barrier before the calf reaches its head start, the cowboy is assessed a 10-second penalty.

The horse is trained to come to a stop as soon as the cowboy throws his loop and catches the calf. The cowboy then dismounts, sprints to the calf and throws it by hand, a maneuver called flanking. If the calf is not standing when the cowboy reaches it, he must allow the calf to get back on its feet before flanking it. After the calf is flanked, the roper ties any three legs together with a pigging string — a short, looped rope he clenches in his teeth during the run.

While the contestant is accomplishing all of that, his horse must pull back hard enough to eliminate any slack in the rope, but not so hard as to drag the calf.

When the roper finishes tying the calf, he throws his hands in the air as a signal that the run is completed. The roper then remounts his horse, rides forward to create slack in the rope and waits six seconds to see if the calf remains tied. If the calf kicks free, the roper receives no time.


blog_5The horse and rider start at one end of the arena.  A goat is tied on a 10 foot length of rope at the other end of the arena (usually about 100 feet away).  The rider races down to the goat, jumps off, and flanks the goat.  Then the rider must tie any three legs together using a four foot “string”.  The rider then throws up her hands to signal that she is done and move at least 3 feet away from the goat.  If the goat becomes untied within 6 seconds after being tied, the rider receives no score.  If the rider’s horse crosses the stake rope, the rider receives a 10-second penalty.

Breakaway roping is a variation of calf roping where a calf is roped, but the rider does not flank it or tie it. It is a rodeo event that features a calf and one mounted rider. The calves are moved one at a time through narrow runs leading to a chute with spring-loaded doors. The horse and rider wait in a box next to the chute that has a spring-loaded rope, known as the barrier, stretched in front. A light rope is fastened from the chute to the calf’s neck, releasing once the calf is well away from the chute and releasing the barrier, which is used to ensure that the calf gets a head start. Once the barrier has released, the horse runs out of the box while the roper attempts to throw a lasso around the neck of the calf.

Once the rope is around the calf’s neck, the roper signals the horse to stop suddenly. The rope is tied to the saddle horn with a string. When the calf hits the end of the rope, the rope is pulled tight and the string breaks. The breaking of the string marks the end of the run. The rope usually has a small white flag at the end that makes the moment the rope breaks more easily seen by the timer. The fastest run wins.  As always, you are racing the clock!