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Animals & Athletes

About the Cowboys, Cowgirls & Livestock

Each rodeo competitor must be a member of the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), the "NFL" of rodeo. Each year, cowboys and cowgirls compete at numerous rodeos throughout the U.S., earning points and prize money in hopes of making it to the National Finals Rodeo. Only the top competitors, the best of the best, earn the chance to compete at the National Finals.

But it’s not all about the cowboys and cowgirls. A rodeo would not be complete without the exciting stock they rope and ride. Horses, horses, and more horses; well trained and true athletes in their own right, these icons of the west carry their riders through a variety of events such as calf roping, team roping, steer wrestling, and barrel racing. These animals are owned and cared for by their riders

Cowboys test their mettle on wild bucking horses and ferocious bulls, also known as "rough stock" hoping to “hang on” for that magic eight second ride. Like the rodeo athletes, rough stock also earns the right to perform at the National Finals. Again, only the best of the best move up. These valuable animals are owned and cared for by a certified stock contractor.

The names of cowboys and cowgirls who have registered to compete in this year’s Rooftop Rodeo will be provided when available. In the meantime, check out the biographies of competitors on the PRCA website.


PRCA Rodeo Events

Bareback Bronc riding is rough and explosive. The most physically demanding of all rodeo events, it is usually the first up at most rodeos. Cowboys ride untrained horses with no saddle or rein. They sit 'bareback' and hold tight to a leather rigging that looks like a heavy piece of rope with a suitcase handle on the end. The cowboys ride one handed and cannot touch their body or the horse with the free hand. As with saddle bronc riding the mark out rule is in effect. The cowboys spur the horse between shoulder and rigging, keeping in rhythm with the horse and trying for a qualifing ride of 8 seconds. Once the ride is complete, pick up men swoop in to 'pick up' the cowboy and set him safely to the ground.

Cowboys are judged on their control and spurring technique while the horses are judged on power, speed, and agility. Because of the power and quickness of the horse, cowboys take a great deal of punishment on their arm, neck, and back. This is tough business!


Team Roping is the only two person event in rodeo in which each participant earns a score. Like tie down roping and saddle bronc riding, the origin of team roping is rooted in the ranch chores of the old west. On the ranch, the strength and size of the cattle required two ropers to catch and immobilize them for branding and doctoring. Today, team roping is a timed event that relies on the cooperation and skill of the cowboys and their horses.

In team roping, each cowboy has a different objective. As with other timed rodeo events, team ropers start from the roping box.  The first cowboy out of the box, the header, does just what the name implies and ropes the head of the steer. Once the catch is made the header dallies, or wraps his rope around his saddle horn, and turns the steer to the left. The second cowboy, the heeler, ropes the “heels” (back legs). The clock is stopped when ropes are tight, the steer is “stretched,” and the horses are facing each other with their front feet on the ground. 

Sound simple? Not so fast. Out of the box, if the barrier is broken too early a 10 second penalty is added to the time. If the heeler catches only one leg, that’s a 5 second penalty. And…. only three catches made by the header are legal; both horns, one horn and the head, or all the way around the neck. Team roping requires coordination and cooperation between both riders and their horses. Truly a team effort, it’s a great event to watch and study!


Steer Wrestling also known as bulldogging is the quickest of the rodeo events. It requires strength, speed, and timing. Cowboys compete against the clock and each other. Like tie-down and team ropers, bulldoggers begin in the roping box. When the cowboy nods his head the steer is released from the chute and off to the races they go, cowboy and horse chasing down the steer. The cowboy catches up to the steer as quickly as possible, leans off his horse, and grabs the steer by its head. As he slides off his saddle, the bulldogger plants his feet and wrestles the steer to the ground. The clock stops when the steer is on its side.

Steer wrestlers require the use of another cowboy on horseback, the “hazer,” who keeps the steer running straight. Although a second cowboy is involved in this event, only the bulldogger gets the time. A winning time is usually between 3 to 4 seconds. Like the roping events described above, breaking the barrier early results in a 10 second penalty which effectively puts the cowboy out of the money.

Saddle Bronc is considered rodeo’s “classic event.” It requires the use of a specialized association saddle with free-swinging stirrups and no horn.  The rider grips a single bronc rein braided from cotton or polyester and attached to a leather halter worn by the horse. The rider lifts the rein, attempting to find a rhythm with the animal by spurring forwards and backwards, reaching from the shoulder of the animal back to the cantle of the saddle. At no time can he touch the horse or himself with his free arm or hand. He cannot switch the rein to the other hand or loose a stirrup.  As with bareback bronc riding, the mark out rule is in effect and an 8 second ride is required. When the ride is over the pick-up men race up beside the bronc and help the cowboy dismount and land safely on the ground. The cowboy is judged on his control and spurring technique. The horse is judged on its power, speed, and agility. It takes both a good rider and a good horse to earn a top score.

Tie-down Roping once known as calf roping is the classic ranch chore of the old west. It is now one of the most competitive of rodeo events. Tie-down ropers compete against each other and the clock for prize money.

Like steer wrestlers and team ropers, tie-down ropers begin in the roping box. The calf is released from a chute and the cowboy must rope it as quickly as possible. Like team roping, the calf is given a head start and if the barrier is broken too quickly the cowboy is penalized ten seconds. As soon as the catch is made the cowboy dismounts, sprints to the calf and tosses it on its side (called flanking.) Using a small rope known as a pigging string, usually held in the cowboy's teeth, any three of the calf's legs are then securely tied. Time stops when the cowboy throws up his hands. Sound easy? It’s not over yet.

After the tie, the roper remounts his horse, puts slack in the rope and waits 6 seconds for the calf to struggle free. If it does, the cowboy receives a “no time” and is disqualified from the round. If the calf remains tied the cowboy receives his time.

Tie-down roping requires timing, speed, agility, strength, and a well trained horse. Horses in the tie-down play a major role in the success of the competitor. They are trained to know when to start walking backward, keeping the rope taught and allowing the cowboy to do his business on the other end. It is amazing to watch as cowboy and horse compete together in this modern sporting event.


Barrel Racing is a timed event where speed matters most. Cowgirls compete in the arena against the clock and each other. Barrel racing is about cooperation between horse and rider.

Barrels are set up at three specific arena locations. Cowgirls enter the arena at full speed, quickly rounding each barrel in a cloverleaf pattern and then exiting the arena where they entered. An electronic timer records the ride to a hundredth of a second. Because speed equates to a winning time, riders steer their horses as close to the barrels as possible, attempting to shave precious seconds off the clock. For each barrel knocked over a 5 second penalty is assessed to the cowgirl’s total time. Leaving the barrels standing and ripping through the course is every barrel racers goal. These cowgirls ride with skill, grit and determination.


Bull Riding is perhaps the most recognized and popular of all rodeo events. It is also the most dangerous. With bull riding, the cowboys always say "it's not if you get hurt, but when." Every bull rider can attest to the truth behind that saying.

As with bareback and saddle bronc riding, bull riders hang on with one hand and cannot touch the bull or their body with their free hand. Doing so results in a “no score.” To ride, cowboys use a bull rope and rosin. The bull rope is thickly braided, with a braided handle and a cowbell attached. The cowbell acts as a weight, allowing the rope to safely fall off the bull when the ride is over. Rosin is a sticky substance that increases the cowboy’s grip on their rope. The rope is wrapped around the bull, with the remaining tail secured tightly around the cowboy’s hand. This secures the cowboy to the bull. They become one. Sound fun?

Unlike the horse events, there is no mark out in bull riding. Cowboys can spur for extra points, but staying on the bull for a full 8 seconds is the hopeful priority! Judges score the event with up to 50 points awarded for the cowboy’s performance and 50 points for the bulls. A score of 100 is a “perfect ride” and seldom earned. Again, a top score depends on both the rider and the animal.

After the ride, the cowboy is aided by bullfighters (those rodeo clowns) and the barrel men who distract the bull, allowing the cowboys to escape safely. Riding a bull requires balance, flexibility, coordination, and courage. Facing down a two-thousand pound animal takes as much mental preparation as it does physical ability. Bull riding has taken on a life of its own with the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) tour and its popularity shows no signs of slowing down.

Rodeos are steeped in the traditions of the old west. Each event is in some way connected to the skills and abilities required on the working ranches and open range that are a part of our heritage. Today’s cowboys and cowgirls keep these skills alive, at home and in rodeo arenas across America. Whether a participant or a spectator, you will appreciate the skills and qualities of the athletes and animals that make rodeo the popular sport that it is. We hope you enjoy the Rooftop Rodeo events and it's athletes.


Other Rodeo Participants
Last but certainly not least are the people who work the arena during each rodeo event, helping to ensure the safety of contestants and animals alike. These are the pickup men, judges, announcer and clowns or bull fighters.
Pickup men race in to help cowboys off the rough stock when their 8 second ride is complete. After assisting the cowboy they then loosen the flank strap that is tightened like a belt around the flank of the horse. Once the strap is pulled from the horse the pickup men herd the animal to the exit gate to clear the area for the next contestant. They also work to coax the bulls to the exit gate when their ride is done. While most spectators focus on the event participants, attention to the skills of the pickup men and their horse is well worth the attention. Pickup men are true cowboys who apply the roping and riding skills of the old west.
We are excited to welcome Chase Cervi. In 2010, 2014 and 2015 the top twenty bareback riders and saddlebronc riders in the world standings selected him as a pickup man to work the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, NV.
Bull Fighters/Clowns have one mission – to protect the cowboys from the bulls. These skilled performers work as either bullfighters, barrel men, or entertainer, each whose job is to distract the bull long enough to allow the cowboy to safely escape the arena. They sometimes place themselves in harm’s way, jeopardizing their own well being for the safety of the cowboy. Agile, athletic and pulling off some acrobatic moves, clowns entertain contestants and spectators alike! Who doesn’t love a rodeo clown!

2016 Rooftop Rodeo Clown/Barrel Man:
Clown: Justin Rumford

The only difference between Justin Rumford and a stand-up comedian, is that he’s doing his job from the middle of a rodeo arena instead of a stage with a spotlight. Rumford, who lives in Ponca City, Okla., is a rodeo clown at events from coast to coast. His job during the rodeo is twofold. He provides the laughs and banters with the announcer. But during the bull riding his more dangerous job begins. Rumford is a barrelman: the cowboy who works the barrel, providing an oasis of safety for bullfighters and bull riders, in case an angry bull decides to chase them.

Rumford grew up in a rodeo family and competed in junior high, high school and college rodeo. He was a full time steer wrestler, but then blew out his knee. While he recovered, he worked as an assistant rodeo coach at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford. After his knee healed, he helped with the Cody (Wyo.) Night Rodeo for three seasons, then began as a livestock truck driver for North Platte’s stock contractor, Bennie Beutler of Beutler and Son Rodeo. He never considered being a full time rodeo clown, but after a few tries as clown, he changed his mind. “I worked the Pretty Prairie (Kan.) bull riding, and they gave me $1000. And I thought, why the heck am I working so hard for $800 a week when I can make more than that in a night? So I jumped ship for the clown life.”

And lucky for rodeo fans, Rumford is still clowning, and winning honors at it. In 2012, 2013, 2014 & 2015 he’s been honored as the PRCA’s Clown of the Year. The award is voted on by his peers and rodeo committees, and Justin is humbled to get it. “I don’t know if I deserve it, but I’m fortunate to accept it. It’s unbelievable.” In September of 2013, he and his wife Ashley became the parents of triplets, daughters Livi and Lola, and a son, Bandy. “I have a 44 foot trailer,” he said, “and I can bring the whole family with me."

You can learn more about Justin here: http://www.justinrumford.com/

2016 Rooftop Rodeo Bull Fighters:

Bull Fighter: Weston Rutkowski

Bull Fighter: Jimmy Lee
Judges have an important role in Rodeo. Without the judges there would be no scores and without the scores there would be no winners! Depending upon the event, you might see the judges on horseback or a-foot. Among their numerous responsibilities are evaluating the contestants and the animals in each event, as both may earn a score. During the roping and wrestling events they monitor the barrier rope to ensure a fair start for the calf or steer. The calves are timed in the tie-down to ensure that their legs are securely tied for at least 6 seconds. Perhaps most importantly, judges ensure the humane treatment of animals. These are but a few of the many rules of rodeo. If interested in learning more, ask a committee member and they will be happy to explain.
Announcers keep us informed of what is happening in the arena. Well versed in the sport of rodeo they educate, inform, and entertain. Perched on a horse right in the arena with a bird’s eye view of the arena and chutes they keep track of events, contestants, animal athletes, scores, and times. They serve as host for the evening’s event, lead us in honoring the American Flag, and banter with the clowns. They are the thread that weaves it all together.

The Rooftop Rodeo is privileged to have Andy Seiler providing this service. Andy Seiler has never met a stranger. His passion and love for the sport of rodeo combined with his broadcast journalism degree make his career choice as a rodeo announcer a winning combination. Seiler has announced all over the country in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and has been called "an up-and-coming voice for professional rodeo," by Boyd Polhamus. "I have always enjoyed talking to people and discussing everything rodeo," Andy explains. "I just never knew that the years of roping the dummy and working to be a champion translate later in life in trying to give contestants and fans alike that same winning feeling."

Come on out and tune into Andy for fun, entertainment, and play by play rodeo action. For more information about Andy, check out his website by clicking here.


The Rooftop Rodeo is excited to welcome a new partner to our production team.  Montex Productions will be providing the most state of the art scoreboard for the Rooftop Rodeo.  You will not miss a moment of the action with the beautiful board!
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