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All About Bronc Riding

bronc riding

Bronc riding, also known as saddle bronc riding or bareback bronc riding, is a rodeo event that involves a cowboy riding and attempting to stay atop an untrained horse for eight seconds. The rider must have one hand in the air at all times while trying to maintain balance with their legs and another hand. Bronc riding has evolved from a necessity in ranch work to an exciting display of skill and athleticism.


The origins of bronc riding date back to the mid-1800s, when cowboys needed to break horses for the United States Army. This method of breaking horses involved a cowboy getting on the horse’s back and “riding out” the horse until it was broken. As rodeos began to emerge, cowboys adapted this method and added an element of competition by seeing who could stay on the bronc for the longest period of time. 

The first bronc riding contest took place in 1901. As the sport grew more popular, formal rules were developed and bronc riding became one of the most popular rodeo events. The main organizations that govern this sport are the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and the International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA).

Rules and Evaluation

When it comes to bareback bronc-riding rules and evaluation, there are several aspects that need to be considered. In general, riders must stay in the saddle for eight seconds and not touch the horse with their free hand or otherwise interfere with its performance. At the beginning of the ride, riders are required to “mark out” their horse, which is done by touching the horse’s shoulders with their heels. The judges evaluate both the rider’s skill as well as the horse’s athletic ability. Riders are judged on their ability to stay in control of the horse and how well they show its power and movement. Bronc riding is scored out of 100 points, with a maximum score being 50 for the rider’s performance and 50 for the horse’s athleticism. 


Bronc riding competitions use mare or gelding horses, typically Bucking horses. Horses used for bronc riding must be at least 6 or 7 years old. The horses used in bronc riding are bred specifically to exhibit the desired traits of bucking, rearing, kicking, spinning, and changing directions quickly while maintaining balance.


Animal welfare is an important consideration in bronc riding. Professional rodeo associations have enacted a variety of regulations to ensure the safety and well-being of the animals used. Horses must be inspected prior to each event to ensure they are healthy and fit for competition. 

How to Bronc Ride


What is the purpose of bronc riding?

The purpose of bronc riding is to showcase the skill and technique required by the rider in order to successfully ride a wild equine.

How long do you have to ride a bronc?

The length of a bronc ride is determined by the rules of the particular event. Generally, professional rodeo riders have eight seconds to stay atop their horse.

How often do bronc riders get hurt?

Rodeo athletes, including bronc riders, are at risk of injury. While rodeos strive to keep their arenas as safe as possible with protective padding and other measures, accidents can still happen. According to the National Collegiate Rodeo Association (NCRA), the most common injuries suffered by bronc riders include broken bones, sprains and strains, bruises, head injuries, and cuts.

Is there a weight limit for bronc riding?

Yes, the weight limit for bronc riding is typically between 300 pounds. The exact amount will depend on the organization hosting the event.

What causes a bronc to buck?

The bucking action of a bronc is caused by an instinctive reaction to the rider. When a rider climbs onto the back of a horse, it triggers its fight-or-flight response. The horse bucks in an effort to remove the source of discomfort from its back.

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