Rodeo first developed in Mexico, then spread to the western United States and Canada, where it remains popular to this day. Originally, it was a way for cowboys and vaqueros to develop the skills required for their work. Today, it is mostly for sport. People in the West take rodeo very seriously. Competitors often start at a young age by participating in youth rodeo. A boys western belt buckle may be the prize, to be worn with pride until the competitor outgrows it.
Youth rodeo events may be similar to those of adult competition, but adapted to be safer for both competitors and the stock.
1. Mutton Busting
The youngest youth rodeo competitors may compete in mutton busting. This involves riding a sheep for as long as possible. Competitors are not allowed to use spurs but must wear safety equipment. To prevent injury to the sheep, there are restrictions on height, weight, and age. The one who stays on top of the sheep longest, often less than eight seconds, is the winner.
2. Wild Pony Racing
You might think that this involves racing ponies to see which is the fastest, but this is not true. The race is to see which of three young competitors can mount the pony for a minimum of two seconds while it is running around the arena. Competitors are between the ages of seven and 12.
3. Barrel Racing
Competitors have 60 seconds in which to ride a horse around a course consisting of preset barrels in a distinctive pattern. The one who finishes with the fastest time wins. Touching the barrels results in a penalty of five seconds added to one’s score.
4. Goat Tying
A goat is staked out on a rope at one end of the arena. The competitor must ride across the arena on a horse and catch the goat after a flying dismount. This is a test of the competitor’s efficiency and speed.
Once competitors outgrow youth rodeo, they may move on to compete in adult events, e.g. from goat tying to calf roping and from mutton busting to bull riding.