Perhaps the most physically demanding rodeo event, bareback riding tests the cowboy’s strength and ability to hang on without any assistance from equipment. Thus, the rider must rely only on his technique and training, in order to make it to the eight-second whistle.
A successful ride begins with the appropriate mount in the chute. The rider, lying flat on the horse’s back, must keep his front legs above the horse’s shoulders before its front hooves hit the arena dirt on the first jump. This is called “marking out.” Points will be deducted from the ride if the cowboy fails to successfully mark his horse out of the chute.
When the chute gate opens, the rider must also keep one hand on the rigging — a leather strap placed behind the horse’s front legs — with the other hand in the air. If the rider’s free hand touches himself, the rigging, or the horse, at any point during the ride, he will be disqualified.
Both the horse and the rider are judged in this event. For the duration of the ride, the cowboy should continually spur in rhythm with the horse’s bucking action. This helps the rider maintain stability and proper form. If the horse fails to buck or performs poorly, the rider may be offered a re-ride on a different horse, drawn at random.