Calgary Stampede: Rodeo Events

Stampede dates: July 4-14, 2019

Since 1912, the rodeo has been the focal point of the Calgary Stampede. The best cowboys, cowgirls, horses and bulls compete in six rodeo events. The original five events include Saddle Bronc, Bareback, Bull Riding, Calf Roping, Barrel Racing (for women), and Steer Wrestling.

Each day of the Stampede, riders win "day money" for the best several places in each event. This prize money is on par with the other rodeos. The top 10 riders based on the combined scores/times advance to Saturday's semi-finals on July 17. This field will be made up of the top seven riders plus last year's Canadian Champion, last year's World Champion and this year's Rodeo Royal Champion in each discipline. The top prize day is a winner-take-all on the final Sunday of Stampede, where prize money of $50,000 per event are handed out.
Cowboy getting ready for his event

2016 Ticket Prices

Afternoon Rodeo seating from $33 to $295 depending on event data & seat location. Rush/Standing room admission $20.

Chuckwagon Races (with Grandstand Show) seating from $49- $128 depending on event data & seat location. Rush/Standing room admission $15.

Insider's Tip

Get the Rush Seats at the gate (2016: $20) . They're cheaper (though pre-bought tickets save you Stampede gate admission) and you're in the "party zone", and you can even wangle a good camera angle on the infield rail for a few seconds. You can wait in a short line and can watching 2 riders have their shot, before the next group gets their close-up.

Panoramic Views & Photos

360 degree Panoramic Photos at the Rodeo:

[ Background | Equipment | Where ]

Background of the Sport

Cowboys behind the scenes, at the Calgary Stampede

Rodeo is a popular sport, or more correctly its a group of popular sports competitions. Rodeo has derived its traditions from cowboy roots. While strongest in areas where cattle ranching is strongest (the prairie provinces), though it has a strong followings in all regions of Canada. It also forms one of the strongest stereotypes of a "rugged Canadian" (right up there with Mountie, and lumberjack).

Rodeo preserves the traditions of ranching, where horses are used for both transportation and to control cattle in herds, and cattle need to be controlled in order to brand them, so they can be identified if lost or stolen. The various competitions compare how well cowboys measure up in key skill areas. Over the years, a number of the rules have changed, to make the competitions safer and easier for the animals. Many of the animals used in rodeo are bred for a specific competition, especially the bucking stock. See link to animal welfare in rodeo.

Some of the events are timed, and some are judged. For judged events, four judges are on the field, two for the cowboy, and two for the stock. Each assigns a score from 1 to 25, and the scores are added up for a total out of 100. Usually, a score over 80 is exceptional, though not always enough to win the event.

One thing almost everybody agrees on (even rodeo riders) is that is as much fun to watch as it is to ride, and a lot safer, too!

Barback Riding at the Calgary Stampede

Bareback Riding
This is the wildest horseback ride for a cowboy. There is no saddle, just a snug rope around the horse's chest. A riders is disqualified if he touches the horse or equipment with his free hand, or fails to stay on the horse for eight seconds.

More Bareback Riding photos

Barrel Racing
Barrel Racing, at the Calgary Stampede The newest addition to the Calgary Stampede, Barrel Racing is a women's event. In Barrel Racing, contestants circle three barrels in a cloverleaf pattern. Time is marked using an electric eye at the start and finish. Barrel Racing requires a good sprinting horse, a firmly controlling rider, and cooperation between the two.

More Barrel Racing Photos
Bull Riding, at the Calgary Stampede

Bull Riding
This is the most exciting event in the rodeo, cowboy against a ton of angry animal. Holding onto only a rope, the rider tries riding the bull for eight seconds. A bell is attached to the bull's neck of the bull, both to excite the bull and to weight the rope when it is released at the end of the ride. Bull riders need good balance, and strong upper body and legs. The rider doesn't have to spur the bull or try to move in rhythm with the bull, since the eight seconds is challenge enough.

More Bull Riding photos

Calf Roping
Calf Roping gives the rider credit for the hard work of his horse and the co-operation of the calf. After rushing from the gate, the rider must intercept the calf, lasso it, throw it on its side, and tie three of its feet, all in the fastest time possible. The rider must anticipate the calf's moves, be quick and accurate with the lasso, and be able to tie a sturdy knot. Disqualification can result if the rider jerks the calf over backwards, or if the calf escapes the knot.

Steer Wrestling
Steer Wrestling, at the Calgary Stampede The steer wrestler's horse races beside the steer, as the rider jumps off, grabbing the steer by its horns in an effort to flip it onto its side. After grabbing the steer's right horn, the rider must land on his feet to bring the steer to a stop. Leveraging his left hand under the steer's jaw, he attempts to knock the steer off balance and to the ground. All four of the steer's feet must be extended on the same side to stop the clock.

More Steer Wrestling photos
Saddle Bronc Riding
This is rodeo's classic event, and is a test of rhythm, balance and timing. Riders use their spurs (on the heels of their boots) on the horse's neck each time the horse bucks. A rider is disqualified for touching the horse or the equipment with his free hand, losing a stirrup or getting bucked off before eight-seconds. Scores are based on the cowboy's spurring effort, how well his toes are turned away from the horse, and the rider's control of the horse.


Rodeo Clowns, in the rodeo ring, protect the cowboys

For riding competitions (saddle bronc, bareback, and bullriding) the animals are provided by the rodeo, typically assigned to riders by random draw. Riders want the narliest beasts to earn higher points (if they stay on for the full required 8 seconds). Riders in these sports typically need chaps to protect their legs, gloves to protect their hands, and nowadays several cowboys are also using chest protectors and helmets. For other competitions, the cowboys must provide their own horses, saddles, tack and lassos.

To become a full-fledged pro cowboy or cowgirl in Canada, you first must buy a permit, then win a certain amount of money, in order to buy a semi-pro and then a full pro card. To obtain a permit with the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association.("CPRA"), you must complete a notarized waiver releasing the association, sponsors and rodeos from any responsibility due to injury or property damage. To enter rodeos, a permit holder posts a $250 bond, refundable at the end of the season or when a full membership is acquired. To be eligible for a semi-pro card, a permit holder must earn $1,000 or $2,000 in two years. To be eligible for a full membership in the CPRA, a contestant must earn $1,000 in year one or accumulate $2,000 in a two year period on their semi-pro card.

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