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Rodeo Bronco Question

I have a horse that can really buck hard.
Do you know how I could sell him to a rodeo?
- Linda Wray


Hi Linda,
What breed is your horse? How old is he?

Below is a long response, with the first half explaining bucking and how to stop it, the second half dealing with rodeo broncos and how a horse becomes one.

Part 1 - Stopping the bucking

What I would do first is try to determine why the horse is bucking, and maybe you can stop it. You know the horse better than someone who hasn't seen him, so can decide if you think it would be worth the work to retrain him not to buck, or if you think he would be better off being allowed to buck as a rodeo bronco.

If the horse is young or not well trained, the bucking could just be a sign of playfulness, excess energy, or lack of training. If this is the case, you might have someone work with the horse and teach him not to buck. Horses that have established a habit of bucking are often dangerous, so you should be careful (wear a helmet!!) and consider hiring a professional trainer to work with the horse. Another risk is if you work with him and you don't know what you are doing, you may actually be training him to buck-- which will make it much harder to teach him, not to mention more dangerous for you.

If the horse has rich food-- alfalfa or grain-- and little excercise, the bucking could just be him getting his excess energy out. Most horses will buck when they feel good. You might increase the horse's turnout time, or decrease the amount of grain or alfalfa you're giving him. Also try round penning or lounging him before a ride to allow him to buck before you get on his back.

While most people train their young horses that bucking is not acceptable when they're being ridden, broncos are taught the exact opposite. A normal trainer would be persistant, get back on if bucked off, and stop or punish the horse when he tries to buck, and reward the horse when he doesn't buck. A bronco, however, is encouraged and allowed to buck. Broncos are bred to have the athletic ability and natural inclination to buck; When they buck like most horses will during their first ride, instead of being punished for bucking they are allowed to buck and throw their rider. This reinforces the bucking behavior, and soon the horse thinks that is what he's supposed to do-- and will do it on cue.

You said that the horse would 'buck hard' so it doesn't sound like he would be bucking out of annoyance or pain, but I would have him vet checked anyway (it's a good idea to have a vet check so potential buyers can see that he's healthy). Generally when a horse is in pain he will act annoyed, depressed, and not be running around and bucking like he does out of excitement. For example, rodeo broncos generally buck very high and hard-- a horse whose tack or rider is annoying him will probably stop, refuse to move, shake his head, back up, and buck in place or kick his back legs; he won't be running around and bucking hard, as that is likely to cause more pain.

Part 2 - Becoming A Bronco

Does your horse have the natural athletic ability and attitude to become a bronco? Good conformation, strong legs, high spirits, and desire to buck make a horse a good bronco. Most broncs are part draft, which gives them good bone and muscle making them able to jump high, and part QH, appy, or paint to give them heart and a strong will and athletic ability. Many come from generations of bucking horses, so the natural desire to buck is bred in them This doesn't mean your horse can't be a great bronco; if he has the conformation, desire and the ability, then he could make a good bronco.

Bucking horses and bulls are registered in the rodeo livestock registry. Their careers and performances are documented, and the best are chosen to win awards every year. They are athletes, just as dressage, reining, or barrel horses are. Good bucking horses go for several thousand dollars; the top horses are worth $50,000 or more.

If you feel your horse is a great bucker and would enjoy the rodeo lifestyle, then you might be able to get him featured in rodeos but it would take some work on your part.
There have been people, like you, who have sold their horses to be used in rodeos because they loved to buck hard; instead of euthanizing these dangerous horses, or selling them to an auction to end up in a slaughterhouse, they have been turned into great bucking horses. I don't remember his name, but there was once such ex-show horse that went on to be a great bucker.

There are two types of 'broncos': Saddle broncs, and bareback broncs. Bareback broncs are ridden without a saddle, the rider holds onto a handle that goes around the girth. The ride tends to be wild and very hard on the rider's muscles and joints-- he literally hangs on while he is whipped around by the horse.
Saddle broncs are ridden with a small saddle, and the rider holds a leadrope attached to a halter as a rein. The ride is smoother, with the rider moving to the motion of the bucking horse, balancing in the stirrups, trying to stay in sync with the horse to create a harmonious ride.
Even though the horses just buck in each event, some horses are better at one or the other. Bigger, smoother buckers tend to be good saddle broncs, while the smaller faster horses make better bareback broncs.

Rodeos themselves do not own or breed bucking horses, so you cannot sell a horse to a rodeo. A rodeo is an event put on by an association or organization, but the livestock used in rodeo events are owned by livestock contractors.
Livestock contractors are the people who own and care for the animals. Many of them have bulls and horses they bred and raised from babies, and they take pride in them.
Look at your local rodeo's entry form or schedule, and it should list the contractor for the rodeo. You can contact that person, and tell them about your horse, and ask them what they think. If they are interested and want to buy your horse, you can arrange that with them.

Since your horse isn't a trained-- or even green-- bucking horse, the contractor might not be interested about buying the him. However, you might find a contractor who is willing to give your horse a chance. You'll have to speak with them to find out what they think, and find out what they do; maybe they can give your horse some test bucks to see if he likes it and has the natural ability for it.

When you sell or give a horse away, the things you might need will include your horse's papers (if he is registered), a transfer of ownership, and your horse's health certificates (Coggins test, especially if he will be going to another state) and vaccination history. The livestock contractor will want to make sure that your horse is healthy, in good shape, and up to date on its deworming and vaccinations. If your horse is not, let them know which vaccines he has or hasn't had, and when he was last dewormed. If your horse has any specific health problems or needs, or has ever been sick or injured, let them know about that too.

I assume that your horse is ground broke, meaning that he leads, ties, and stand for the farrier, and loads in a trailer. If he's not, alert the buyer so they know. Even though broncos may seem wild, some are quite tame and friendlywhen they're not doing their job. They know there's a time and place where it's OK to act wild and buck. I've heard of saddle broncs that will let people ride around on them bareback.
They are taught to buck on cue; cues can be anything from a verbal command, a movement, to a piece of equipment, that tells the horse what he's supposed to do.

With broncos, the cue is the flank strap, a sheepskin-lined strap that goes around the horse's flank. The strap resembles the back cinch that people ride western horses in, but it's softer and sits a little farther back. Horses don't buck in back cinches, but they do with flank cinches because they are taught to. Flank cinches actually tend to be much softer than a regular back cinch, so when the horse is bucking it remains supple and won't pinch or hurt the bronco. There are, sadly, a lot of misunderstandings about the cinch; people make all kinds of wild claims from the cinch is sharp or caustic (against rodeo rules,) to it pinches the genitals (anatomically impossible). If it was painful or pinching, the animals would refuse to buck, as bucking would cause even more pain when they moved. If there was abuse going on, I'm sure the contractors would be pretty upset since they are the ones who own and care for these equine and bovine competitors.

You might want to ask the contractor other questions, such as if they'll let you know how the horse works out. If the horse turns out to not like bucking, then maybe you can arrange to have them call you so you can buy it back. If your horse turns out to be a good bucker and they decide to buck him in rodeos, you should call them and find out what kind of a schedule your horse has so you can arrange to see him perform. You might also see if they register him him with the rodeo stock registry, if so you can track your horse's performance and find out how he scored, who rode him or who he threw, etc.

How old is your horse? Be sure to let the buyer know. Because of the good feed and care and light work load (bucking horses only work for a few minutes a year), they tend to live long and be able to compete for many years. This means that even if your horse isn't young, he could still learn to be a bucker. While racehorses may be retired before they reach age 6, broncos can still be bucking at age 15+, and after their bucking years are over they retire to the ranches and generally live long-- several stock contractors have retired geldings and mares (stallions don't buck) that are in their late twenties!

Let me know how it works out-- you never know, maybe your horse will be the next Bucking Horse of the Year!




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