A smashing good time: the Clallam County Fair’s demolition derby is a popular attraction each year. Sequim Gazette photo by Michael Dashiell
• Bareback riding
A bareback rider begins his ride with his feet placed above the break of the horse’s shoulder. If the cowboy’s feet are not in the correct position when the horse hits the ground on its first jump out of the chute, the cowboy has failed to “mark out” the horse properly and is disqualified.
Throughout the 8-second ride, the cowboy must grasp the rigging (a handhold made of leather and rawhide) with only one hand.
The rider is judged on his control during the ride and on his spurring technique. The score also is based on the rider’s “exposure” to the strength of the horse. In addition, the horse’s performance accounts for half the total score.
• Breakaway roping
Breakaway roping is a modification and adaptation of men’s tie-down calf roping. The contestants begin behind a rope barrier. The barrier is released automatically by a measured length of twine around the calf’s neck. When the calf reaches the end of the twine, the barrier is tripped. If the roper rides through the barrier before it is tripped, a 10-second penalty is added to the total time. The loop must be thrown and go over the head of the calf. When the slack in the rope is pulled tight, the tension will break a string that is holding the other end of the rope to the saddle horn. When the rope “breaks away” from the saddle, the judge will drop the flag to stop the timing watches.
• Team roping
The header is the first cowboy out of the box. He chases down the steer and ropes him around the head and once around the neck or around both horns.
The header must turn the steer to the left, giving his partner (the heeler) a chance to rope both of the steer’s hind feet.
If the header breaks the barrier, a 10-second penalty is added to the total time; catching only one hind leg results in a 5-second penalty.
If the heeler tosses his loop before the header has changed the direction of the steer, it’s called a “crossfire” and it results in a disqualification.
The run is complete, and the clock is stopped, when the steer is secured, the team ropers’ horses are facing each other on opposite sides of the steer, and the slack has been taken out of both ropes.
• Barrel racing
In barrel racing, the contestant enters the arena at full speed on a sprinting American Quarter Horse. As they start the pattern, the horse and rider trigger an electronic eye that starts the clock. Then the racer rides a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels positioned in the arena and sprints back out of the arena, tripping the eye and stopping the clock.
The contestant can touch or even move the barrels, but receives a 5-second penalty for each barrel that is overturned. With the margin of victory measured in hundredths of seconds, knocking over one barrel spells disaster for a barrel racing competitor.
• Bull riding
Upper body control and strong legs are essential to riding bulls. The rider tries to remain forward, or “over his hand,” at all times. Leaning back could cause him to be whipped forward when the bull bucks.
Judges watch for good body position and other factors, including use of the free arm and spurring action. Although not required, spurring will add points to a rider’s score.
As in all the riding events, half of the score in bull riding is determined by the contestant’s performance and the other half is based on the animal’s efforts.
• Saddle bronc riding
Each rider must begin his ride with his feet over the bronc’s shoulders to give the horse the advantage. A rider who synchronizes his spurring action with the animal’s bucking efforts will receive a high score. Other factors considered in the scoring are the cowboy’s control throughout the ride, the length of his spurring stroke and how hard the horse bucks.
Model spurring action begins with the rider’s feet far forward on the bronc’s point of shoulder, sweeping to the back of the saddle, or “cantle,” as the horse bucks. The rider then snaps his feet back to the horse’s neck a split second before the animal’s front feet hit the ground.
• Steer wrestling
The steer wrestler on horseback starts behind a barrier and begins his chase after the steer has been given a head start. If the bulldogger leaves too soon and breaks the barrier, he receives a 10-second penalty.
The steer wrestler is assisted by a hazer, another cowboy on horseback, tasked with keeping the steer running in a straight line.
When the bulldogger’s horse pulls even with the steer, he eases down the right side of the horse and reaches for the steer’s horns. After grasping the horns, he digs his heels into the dirt. As the steer slows, the cowboy turns the animal, lifts up on its right horn and pushes down with his left hand.
After the catch, the steer wrestler must either bring the steer to a stop or change the direction of the animal’s body before the throw or is disqualified. The clock stops when the steer is on its side with all four legs pointing the same direction.