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    In a few hours, or maybe tomorrow or Saturday, you’re going to pay your $8 to park in what must be an excellently cared for parking space (why else would it cost so much) and walk your dusty cowboy boots (you know, the ones you wear once a year) into Freedom Hall.

    You’ll search for your seat, and settle in to watch 2 ½ hours of a sporting event that you know little about.

    Unless you keep reading.

    Louisville is playing host to the finals of the Great Lakes Circuit of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Cowboys and cowgirls were invited here based on their competitive records throughout the nine-state circuit, including Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois.

    Rodeo events come in two types: Roughstock (Bareback Riding, Saddle Bronc and Bull Riding) and Timed (Steer Wrestling, Team Roping, Tie Down and Women’s Barrel Racing). 

    In Roughstock events, the rider’s score is determined equally between the cowboy’s performance and the animal’s performance. There are two judges, who will each give two scores from 0-25; one for the rider and one for the the animal. A perfect score is 100.

    Timed events are just that; timed. While penalties may be incurred, generally, it is the cowboy who finishes fastest that wins.

    Event Basics:

    • Bareback, Saddle Bronc and Bull Riding: The cowboy’s goal is to hang on for 8 seconds while showing control. He cannot use his free hand to touch the horse, his equipment or himself.
    • Tie-Down Roping: The cowboy must catch the calf and tie three legs together. Look for the cowboy to raise his hands, indicating he’s finished. The calf must stay tied for six seconds in order for the tie-down to qualify.
    • Team Roping: the Header and Heeler work in tandem to rope the steer; the Header working to loop the head or horns, the Heeler works on the hind legs. In order for the timing to stop, both horses must face the steer and the ropes must be taut.
    • Barrel Racing: the only women’s event. Based on time, the rider and horse must complete a cloverleaf pattern. Each barrel knocked down adds a 5-second penalty. This event is administered by the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association.

    Worried about the animals?

    Don’t be. The PRCA has strict and stringent rules (over 60 of them) concerning their welfare. Severe fines and penalties are in place for those violating policies. PRCA policy also requires that a veterinarian be on-site at all sanctioned events.

    According to the PRCA, breeders of bucking horses and bulls work to bring out the natural bucking tendencies in the animals; the amount they buck is often an inherited trait.

    The average bucking horses and bulls spend less than five minutes a year in the arena.

    Further, these bucking animals likely cost more than you paid for your college education, so their owners have a vested interest in their care and wellbeing. Find more on the welfare of rodeo animals on the PRCA website.

    The North American Championship Rodeo commences tonight at 7:30 and continues through Saturday. Tickets range from $20-$32 for adults, $10 for kids 12 and under and are on sale at theKEC, KFC Yum! Center and KICC ticket offices, as well as at

    Image: Courtesy of ProRodeo.Com

    Michelle Rynbrandt's picture

    About Michelle Rynbrandt

    Before landing in the Possibility City, Michelle toured the country performing in various regional theatres. Having been there and done that, she can honestly say that Louisville's cultural opportunities are second to none.

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