Mounted on top or standing beside an animal many times their size and weight, it's contestant against beast. In these events, the contestant attempts to out balance or out maneuver the animal's natural instinct to rid itself of an unusual weight on its back or to escape from the clutches of the contestant. These events require a great deal of skill and experience before a contestant can become a champion. Many IGRA sanctioned rodeos will hold rodeo schools before a rodeo or during the year, where experienced competitors can give the new contestant good instruction and suggestions as to how to improve.
The ultimate event of the rodeo, Bull Riding, is an advanced version of Steer Riding, but with a one-half ton more beef to contend with and the added danger that many bulls turn back on the rider and attempt to get even for having their routine disrupted. Guaranteed, once you are on the bull and the gate opens, few riders ever leave this event without being slammed to the ground and scurrying for cover, as the Bull Fighter moves in to save the cowboy or cowgirl.
Bareback Bronc Riding
A specially designed collection of leather and cinches used for this event is called a "bareback riggin." Compared to the bull rope, this one is really tied on to the animal and has a built-in hand hold. Another difference is that the rider must start the ride with both of his or her feet extended forward over the horse's shoulders and on the first leap out of the chute, "rake" backwards toward the horse's rump. If the rider misses this, called "marking out", it does not matter how great the rest of the ride is, he or she will receive a DQ. If the rider is lucky enough to make the 6 seconds, he or she may be plucked to safety as the two "pick-up men" move in and attempt to rescue the rider from his or her bucking mount. Contestants may elect to ride two-handed from start to finish, but will also receive a lower score.
This is a good beginner's event, but it's not as easy as it looks. Steers are male cattle which have been castrated. The rider has a "bull rope" wound around the animal just behind the front legs and then around the rider's hand; no knots are allowed. This hand hold and the riders legs, wrapped around the animal, are all the rider has to count on to stay on top. A rider who is able to spur, or move their legs back and forth on the animal's sides, will receive a higher score.
This event is designed to give even the novice a chance to compete in rough stock events. The steer and the contestant both start in the bucking chute and face a 60-second time limit. When the chute gate opens, the contestant must bring the steer out to a 10-foot line in front of the chute, and then attempt to wrestle, or "dog" the steer to the ground. The contestant will turn the steer's head up and toward the steer's shoulder, hoping the steer will fall over on its other shoulder, causing all four feet to point in the same direction as the head was turned. If the steer is contrary and falls the other way, it is termed a "dog fall" and the contestant can either attempt to turn the head the same direction or let the steer up and start over. In this event either the contestant "dogs" or gets "dogged."
Gay rodeo presents three roping events with one designed for beginners. The other two can be costly, because your success depends on a very good horse. Many roping horses sell for $10,000 and up. These events always begin with the contestant in a "roping box." An imaginary start line runs across the front of the roping box and the chute where the calf or steer is held. Should the contestant cross this line, called the "barrier", before the calf or steer clears the chute, a 10-second penalty is added on to the contestant's time.
Calf Roping on Foot
This is the second step in a roper's career. Most beginning ropers practice on fence posts or other stationary objects and then move in to the arena with a live animal. The contestant stands in the roping box and when the calf is released, attempts to throw the loop over the calf's head. Once the loop passes over the calf's head, the contestant must pull up the slack in the rope.
Mounted Break-Away Roping
The roper is mounted on horseback with one end of his or her rope tied to the saddle horn by a piece of string. When the calf is released from the chute, the roper will be in hot pursuit with lasso swirling above his or her head. When the loop is thrown, it must pass completely over the calf's head. As the calf pulls away from the rider and horse, the rope grows taut and will break away from the saddle horn.
Hours of hard work go into the training for this event. This event is loaded with hazards, such as collisions, entanglements, and worst of all, possible loss of fingers. The team consists of two ropers and two well-trained horses. One roper is called the "header" and his or her responsibility is to catch the steer by the horns while the teammate, called the "heeler," has the responsibility of catching the steer's back legs, or heels. When the header makes the catch, he or she must wind the rope around the saddle horn, called "dallying off," and turning the steer away from himself causes the steer's heels to fly in the air for the heeler's loop to catch. When both ropers have been successful in their tasks, they must turn their horses to face the steer and pull their ropes taut.
Speed and agility are two highly prized qualities in these contestant's horses. These three speed events pit the horse, under the skillful hand of its rider, against the clock. Negotiating the prescribed pattern is a test of the rider's skill and the horse's speed and agility. A running start is permitted in these events and the fastest time wins.
Contestants vie for the fastest time in running a 3 point, cloverleaf pattern around three barrels. The horse and rider are allowed a running start and time begins and ends upon crossing a visible starting line. A 5-second penalty is assessed for knocking over a barrel. The pattern can be started either from the left or right, and contestants that go off the prescribed course are disqualified.
In this event, horse and rider compete for fastest time working a linear pattern through six equally spaced poles. The poles must be at least 6 feet in height and spaced 21 feet apart. A running start is allowed and a 5-second penalty will be assessed for knocking a pole down, and disqualification will take place if the team goes off course.
A triangular pattern similar to that of the barrel race is used, with the substitution of a pole in place of barrel number three. The two other barrels will have a bucket that is 3/4 full of rabbit pellets placed on top of it, and a flag in one of these buckets. The rider may choose to run to the right or left and as they pass the first barrel, they pick up the flag, race past the pole, back to the second barrel, and attempt to place the flag in the second bucket. If the rider knocks over the first bucket or the pole, a 5-second penalty will be assessed. If the rider does not pick up the flag or misses the second bucket, no time will be given. If the second bucket or barrel are knocked over, the rider is disqualified. Sounds easy, but try this at 30 plus miles per hour!
Whenever a group of cowhands get together for a good time, hell is going to be raised! Cowhands generally have their own definition of fun and challenge. After a few beers and some serious ego pumping, it is amazing what a group of hands can come up with! Prerequisites for participation are a willingness to eat dirt and the ability to hold your own with an ornery steer or goat. Sixty percent of gay contestants get their start in these three events and the old-timers stay in because the payoffs (or winnings) are the best of all events.
This event requires a two-person team. One member stands ten feet from the chute gate holding the end of a 25 foot rope, which is looped around the steer's horns. The other team member stands 40 feet from the chute and has a 24-inch long ribbon. When the chute gate opens, the team must bring the steer out and across the ten-foot line. One team member tries to tie the ribbon on the steer's tail while the other team member tries to remove the rope from the steer's horns. When the ribbon is on the tail and the loop is off the horns, the ribbon-tier must tag the timer.
Wild Drag Race
The Wild Drag Race is an audience favorite all across the IGRA rodeo circuit. Even though the competition is serious and the payoff sizable, a large number of competitors also believe this to be a very entertaining event for the audience. The drag costumes come from "Goodwill" stores, from second-hand stores, and many from raiding mom's closet. A team is made up of one male, one female, one "drag" (either male or female), and one wild steer. The steer, with a halter and a 25-foot lead rope, is in a bucking chute at the beginning of the event. The cowgirl holds the rope and the cowboy and drag stand 40 feet from the chute. When the chute gate opens, the team tries to direct (or harass) the steer toward the finish line, which is 70 feet from the chute. They must get the steer across the finish line, mount the "drag," and then ride back across the finish line. The "drag" must be mounted on the steer before the steer starts back across the finish line and must stay on the steer until all four feet of the steer have crossed back across the finish line. Sounds easy, but the "drag" may get bucked off several times before the event is ever completed!
This two-person event was created specially for gay rodeo. The team stands 50 feet from the point where the goat is tethered. One of the team members has a pair of jockey-style underwear worn over their forearms. When the whistle sounds, the team runs to the goat. The team member without the underwear picks up the goat's rear hooves, grabs the underwear from around the other member's arms, and pulls it up the legs of the goat. Both team members must then race back to the start/finish line and cross the finish line to stop the time. The underwear must stay over the goat's tail bone until the timer is tagged by both members.
Wild Cow Milking
Gay rodeos no longer have the wild cow milking event. It was discontinued in 1986 and replaced with the Wild Drag Race. This video is of a straight event held in Wichita Falls in 2014.
As IGRA rodeos began to run throughout the year, it became increasingly difficult to find cows that would give milk for all rodeos. Cows only give milk when they have young calves. Most calves are born in the spring and after the calf is weened the cow ceases to produce milk.
In Gay rodeo, this event involved 3 people, a female, a male, and a third person dressed in drag. Similar to the Wild Drag race, the team must control the cow, but rather than riding the cow, they must milk her of at least 2 drops of milk then race back, tag the timer and show the judge the milk. In the gay rodeo version of this event, all the contestants were on foot, not riding horses as shown in this video.