Rodeo traditions are heavily influenced by Spanish-American history. (In fact, “rodeo” means “roundup” in Spanish.) Early Montana cowboys mounted wild mustangs, descended from the earliest stock introduced by the Spanish. Cowboys “broke” these wild horses, riding them out until they quit bucking. Sometimes a horse was too wild for the average cowboy to train; so, a bronc buster would come in to face the challenge. Over time, this developed into friendly competitions between neighboring ranches and later became the rodeo action we know today.
Photo by Mary Peters
Stock vs. Clock
Professional rodeo action consists of two types of competitions: roughstock events and timed events. In the roughstock events (bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, and bull riding), a contestant, while using only one hand, must stay aboard a bucking horse or bull for eight seconds without touching the animal, himself, or any of his equipment with his free hand. In timed events (steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping, barrel racing, and steer roping) contestants compete against the clock as well as against each other.
The rodeo clown is more than a performer; often, he is among the most talented cowboys in the arena, charged with protecting the contestants as well as entertaining the crowd. The clown’s arsenal includes a flashy costume and brightly colored props, which he uses to distract a bull from a downed rider. Perhaps the most famous rodeo clown is Montana native Flint Rasmussen, who was awarded the title of PRCA Clown of the Year for eight consecutive years.