The Calgary Stampede Rodeo always has its detractors for animal cruelty but I have watched the Stampede for 20+ years both in person and on the TV and there are VERY few animal injuries during the daytime rodeo. The same cannot always be said for the cowboys and cowgirls. It is important to remember that ranch living requires a quiet intensity for humans, but the animals in the rodeo are always going to win. The Calgary Stampede Rodeo is the Nascar of rural living; Bumps, bruises and broken bones are the name of the game.
The cowboys and cowgirls love this life and in Calgary they can make some big money. A total of $2 MILLION dollars in prize money is doled out every year to cowboys and cowgirls. Day money for bull riders is ranges from $6000 (first place) to $4000 (4th place) and the overall winner pulls in an additional $100,000. That is some big coin.
You might also want to know What Are The Top 10 Things To Do At the Calgary Stampede and we have a list for that!
Now onto the list of the top 10 Calgary Stampede Rodeo events:
1 – Barrel Racing
Barrel Racing is a women’s only competition and you would think a practically open to only young women… but you would be wrong. In the 2016 Stampede the first place barrel racer for day 1 was 67 old Mary Burger from Pauls Valley Oklahoma, who also happens to be the reigning World Champion. The youngest competitor was 19. The ladies are fast and strong. The basic idea is race around 3 barrels without knocking them over and the get back to where you started. The best in the world do it 7.5 seconds.
2 – Novice Bareback
Cowboys under the age of 21 get matched to young bucking horses from the Stampede Ranch. Novice Bareback judging is based on the cowboys technique and control as long as they stay on for 8 seconds. If they get bucked off in that time, they get nice round zero no matter how good their ride was. Just like many of the other rodeo events, there are points for the horse and points for the rider. Get the most points and you win!
3 – Bull Riding
This is a crowd favorite. The bulls ALWAYS win, but we stupid humans claim a victory at 8 seconds. 8 seconds of flying anger. Most bulls are not well mannered at the best of times and the ones chosen for the Calgary Stampede are particular ornery. The cowboys get beat up and whiplashed. It’s like trying to keep upright in dryer on high speed that is rolling down a hill and possibly off a cliff. My personal favorite feature of this event occurs after the ride, when the bull struts around the grounds as frustrated ‘rodeo clowns’ try to get the bull to leave the field. The bulls seem proud of their work and want everyone to know who is really in charge. This guy makes it look easy… it isn’t!
4 – Tie-Down Roping
A calf is released and given a 10′ head start, then a cowboy and horse race to lasso the calf, tie 3 legs and raise their hands. This looks rough but remember the calf’s are quite low to the ground so like your child falling down, it isn’t as harsh as it first seems.
5 – Junior Steer Riding
Cowboys and Cowgirls between 11 and 14 years old ride small bulls for 8 seconds… or more accurately, they try to ride for 8 seconds. These young bull riders have the option to grab their strap with both hands.
6 – Wild Pony Riding
This is not your average pony ride. Three little kids, often girls, hang on for dear life as a bucking pony drags them around the dirt, usually face first. The goal is to get a kid on the back of the pony which as you can see in the video below is an awful lot harder to do than it you might think reading the words on this page.
7 – Saddle Bronc
These horses just don’t take any crap from their riders. Like the bulls, they are going to win… every time. Again, cowboys define a win as 8 seconds on the back but the horse knows whos boss in Saddle Bronc.
8 – Bareback
None of these men can have children. Ok, that is not true at all, but it is easy to think so when you see the rides they make without so much as a saddle. In fact the cowboys position, when all is going well, is leaning back on his bum. 8 seconds of glorious flurry.
9 – Novice Saddle Bronc
You guessed it, the same as Saddle Bronc but the riders have to be under 21 years old and hold on for the same 8 seconds of glory.
10 – Being There
There are more events, like Steer Wresting, but I think one of the top ten events at the Calgary Stampede Rodeo is just being in the crowd. The sun and the fun make for a great family atmosphere. Remember that as large as the grandstand is only shelters those in the middle. In particular, if you are on the north end, you will be in the sun or the rain the entire time (which many people like). Rodeo tickets also get you into the park so your $40 – $110 ticket saves you the $18 gate fee. If you want a preview of your seats, click HERE to use the Calgary Stampede Virtual Venue.
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