The Hailey Rodeo Arena will play host for the third straight year to the Intermountain Pro Rodeo Association Championship Finals on Labor Day weekend.
Two days of rodeo competition, set for Saturday, Aug. 30, and Sunday, Aug. 31, will determine the year’s top cowboys and cowgirls in eight events, including bareback riding, saddle bronc, bull riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing, breakaway roping, tie-down roping and team roping.
The Intermountain Pro Rodeo Association is considered one of the top rodeo associations in the West. Competitors come from Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Montana and Nevada. Most of the competitors are semi-professionals, holding down regular jobs and doing rodeo for fun. They’ve been competing at rodeos throughout the Intermountain West, picking up earnings that are used to determine rank and bragging rights.
The event is organized and sponsored by the Sawtooth Rangers Riding Club.
Saturday’s rodeo action starts at 6 p.m., while Sunday’s action starts at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for children 5-12. Kids 4 and under get in for free. Tickets are available at the Hailey Chamber/Visitor Center, at Atkinsons’ Market in Hailey and at the event. More information is available at (208) 521-7708.
Aware that not everyone understands rodeo lingo or event rules, the Sawtooth Rangers provide Rodeo 101 on their website, describing each of the eight events that will be featured at the ImPRA finals.
Bareback riding involves riding a bucking horse without a saddle and holding onto the rigging with only one hand to accumulate points. A rider must have both spurs touching the horse’s shoulders until the horse’s feet hit the ground on the first jump from the chute, which is referred to as “marking out.” A bareback rider is judged on spurring technique, the degree to which the rider’s toes remain turned out while spurring and the strength of the horse, whose performance counts for half the score. A rider is disqualified if the rider fails to mark out or touches any part of the horse or equipment with the free hand, or if the rider is bucked off before completing an eight-second ride.
Saddle bronc riding also involves bucking horses but with the use of a saddle. A rider must mark out by touching both heels above the animal’s shoulders on the first jump. Points are awarded based on the rider’s technique and control during the ride, the length of the spurring stroke and how hard the horse bucks. Disqualification can come from failing to mark out, if either foot slips out of a stirrup or if the rider drops the rein during an eight-second ride.
Bull riding involves staying aboard a bucking, spinning and twisting bull for an eight-second ride, holding with only one hand onto a braided rope wrapped around the bull’s torso. Marking out is not mandatory, but spurring can score a rider extra points. Half the score for a bull ride is determined by the rider’s technique and the other half by the bull’s efforts. A rider can be disqualified for touching the animal, himself or the equipment with the free hand, or by getting bucked off before the eight seconds is over.
Steer wrestling, also known as bulldogging, requires a lot of strength. A cowboy is required to leap from a horse, catch a steer by the neck and throw it to the ground. It is a timed event and ends when the steer is on the ground with all four feet pointing in the same direction. A bulldogger is assisted by a hazer, a cowboy who rides alongside the steer to keep it from veering away. Speed and precision are the two most important factors for a cowboy in steer wrestling.
Barrel racing is another timed event that tests horsemanship skills. A rider enters the arena at full speed and is required to ride a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels and then exit the arena, stopping the clock. Touching or even moving a barrel is OK, but if a barrel tips over, a five-second penalty is assessed.
Breakaway roping is a timed event that features a calf and mounted cowgirl. When the animal is released, running from the chute, a 10-foot rope attached to the calf releases a rope barrier restraining the cowgirl and ensuring that the animal gets a head start. The competitor needs to throw a rope in a loop around the calf’s neck. Once the calf is roped, the cowgirl signals her horse to stop. 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, marking the end of the run.
Tie-down roping involves roping a calf and immobilizing it, such as is done by working cowboys to catch calves for branding. As with breakaway roping, the event is timed and the calf gets a head start. Horses are trained to come to a stop as soon as the cowboy throws his loop and catches the calf. The cowboy then dismounts, runs to the calf and flanks, or throws, it down. If the calf is not standing when the cowboy reaches it, he must allow the calf to get back on its feet before he flanks it. The cowboy then ties three legs together with a short looped rope. The horse needs to pull back to eliminate slack in the line. When the calf is tied, a roper throws his hands in the air to signal to the judges that he’s done. He must then remount his horse, create slack in the rope and wait six seconds. If the calf kicks free, the cowboy is disqualified.
Team roping is a timed event requiring close cooperation between a header and a heeler. As with all roping events, the steer gets a head start. The header takes off first, trailed by the heeler. The header must rope the steer first with one of three legal catches: around both horns, around one horn and the head or around the neck. Once the steer is caught, the header must turn the steer, exposing its hind legs to the heeler, who then must rope both hind legs. The clock is stopped once the steer is caught and the horses face one another with no slack in the ropes. Disqualification occurs if the header fails to make a legal catch or if either roper misses completely. A five-second penalty is assessed if the heeler catches only one leg.
More Rodeo 101 is available at the Sawtooth Rangers website, www.sawtoothrangers.org.