While the ethics of Saddle Bronc and Bareback riding are hotly debated by animal rights groups and rodeo promoters, the fact remains that the sport is still a rodeo aficionado favorite. The tension and excitement build as a rider mounts a bronc in the bucking chute; and when the gate is opened and the horse bursts out and begins to buck, the crowd of spectators go wild. On the first jump out of the chute, the rider must have his boot heels in contact with the horse above the point of the shoulders before the horse's front hooves touch the ground. The objective: To stay on the animal for 8 seconds without touching the horse with his free hand.
Originally, in the early cattle ranching era, bronc riding was a necessary part of a working cowboy's job. Oft times unbroken horses were quickly rounded up and "broken" to saddle just before a cattle drive; by mounting the animal and riding out his bucking antics until it was worn out and submissive.
Today's competition bronc is usually a horse that is selectively bred for strength, agility and its bucking ability. A horse that bucks in a wild, showy manner will score more points than one who only bucks in a straight line. Most broncs are allowed to grow up in a semi-wild state on open range. They do, however, have to be gentled enough to be safely loaded into trailers, vaccinated and wormed. Cloth dummies attached to the saddle are used to initiate the horse to bucking competition.
As an incentive to make the horse kick out higher and straighter, a 4 inch "flank strap" or "bucking strap", covered with sheepskin or neoprene, is fastened behind the widest part of the abdomen. This is where animal rights groups become livid; fearing that this practice puts the horse in pain, harms the genitalia, and constitutes "animal cruelty". So modern rodeos in the United States of America are closely regulated and have instituted a number of rules governing how rodeo animals are to be managed.
A proven bucking horse (at least 6 to 7 years of age) can sell for between $8,000 to $10,000. While it is sadly true that many retired broncs end up at the slaughterhouse (as do so many unwanted animals) many do simply retire to a placid life "out to pasture" and live to a ripe old age.
For a more in depth discussion of Bronc Riding ......click here