Things Kids Learn at a Rodeo

Panning for gold.

My husband is from Dallas, Texas. We got married in Texas at a beautiful ranch. At our reception, everyone even the kids took turns riding the mechanical bull. They were hooked.

So naturally when we saw that the Professional Bull Riding was taking place here in Chicago we put on our best Western wear and headed to the All State Arena. Riding a mechanical bull and a real live bull are completely different but the girls still cheered, and hollered as they were counting to eight…eight seconds is the magical number that the bull rider needs to stay on in order to earn points.

Ever since our wedding, all four girls have been eager to learn more about this sport. Bull riding has no time outs, no tossing in the towel. The rodeo we went to was put on by Bull riders who 21 years ago formed Professional Bull Riding (PBR). According to Forbes, it’s America’s fastest growing sport with more than 2.5 million fans attending live events each year.

The rodeo is sometimes televised, like the one we went to. During commercial breaks we were entertained so funnyman & World Champion barrel man Flint Rasmussen kept us laughing. The girls got a kick out of his clown-painted face and dance moves, and were especially interested during the prize give-a-ways. My husband Brian explained that the big prize for the bull riders is the PBR cup which is a traveling monument to the best riders in the world, each year a gold buckle is added and inscribed with the name of the new PBR World Champion, immortalizing the winner forever.

Since Western riding sports began, the ‘trophy’ of choice has been the belt buckle. The regular season event buckles are valued at a minimum of $1,000 and the PBR World Champion is valued at over $10,000.

So how do the bull riders score? Each ride is worth up to 100 points. 50 points for the bull and 50 points for the rider, if he successfully rides the bull for eight seconds. Four judges award up to 25 points each to the rider and the bull. All four of the judges’ scores are combined and then divided by two for the official score. Half of the 100 points possible is based on the performance of the bull and how difficult he is to ride. Judges look for bulls with speed, power, drop in the in the front end, kick in the back end, direction changes and body rolls.

The other half of the 100 points is based on how adept the rider is. The rider must stay aboard the bull for eight seconds to receive a score. And the clock begins when the bull’s shoulder or hip crosses the plane of the bucking chutes and stops when the bull rider’s hand comps out of the rope or he touches the ground. The bull rider must ride with one hand and is disqualified if he touches himself or the bull during the eight-second ride. This is one family friendly event you won’t want to miss. And especially given that we are in the Midwest, bull riding it’s necessarily a sport your child has grown up watching or being able to take part in.

If you are looking for something new and different to do this summer you will want to check out the Little Boots Rodeo in Elk Grove Village. While your child won’t be riding a real live bull they do have a mechanical one, along with 10 other events that include sitting on a real live alligator, panning for gold, and watching flying pigs. I spoke to the organizer of the rodeo who says this family event is one you won’t want to miss. The fee is $12 per child for a punch card, and when they are finished completing all of the events they qualify for prizes. This year’s rodeo takes place June 21st-22nd and costs $12 per punch card for children ages 3-12 years old.

And if you think your child might be into the PBR, find it on television, or see if your local community is hosting a western themed rodeo. And don’t forget to teach your children the lingo…it’s especially cute hearing a 4-year-old say “Howdy Partner” to everyone she sees.

Christine Bachman

About Christine Bachman

Christine Bachman is founder and president of Plan It PR, a public relations and marketing firm. The mother of five shares tips and survival stories in “Play Dates and Power Lunches.” Ms. Bachman started working public relations after a long career in broadcast journalism, which included work as a television anchor, reporter and producer.