Promoting the Sport of Rodeo, Sportsmanship and Education

while preserving our Western Heritage

Maryland High School Rodeo Association

High School Division​ 


                                                                                              The National High School Rodeo Association is one of the fastest growing youth

                                                                                              organizations, with an annual membership of approximately 12,500 students

                                                                                              from 42 states, five Canadian provinces, and Australia. The Association

                                                                                              sanctions over 1,100 rodeos each year. The NHSRA is governed by a national

                                                                                              Board of Directors, which consists of one member from each state or province.

                                                                                              A staff at the national headquarters in Denver, Colorado handles the day-to-

                                                                                              day operations.


                                                                                              Each year, the NHSRA produces the two elite youth rodeo events in the world -

                                                                                              The National Junior High Finals Rodeo (NJHFR) and the National High School

                                                                                              Finals Rodeo (NHSFR). The NHSFR is the "World's Largest Rodeo," featuring

                                                                                              approximately 1,500 contestants from across the United States, Canada and

                                                                                              Australia. Athletes vie for national titles, assorted prizes and their share of

                                                                                              thousands of dollars in college scholarships. Action at the event is non-stop,

                                                                                              with rodeo performances being conducted twice each day. The top-twenty

                                                                                              contestants in each event then advance to a final round of competition to

                                                                                              determine who will walk away with the coveted championship belt buckles.


Boys events include Bareback Riding, Bull Riding, Saddle Bronc Riding, Tie-Down Roping, Steer Wrestling, Team Roping, and Reined Cow Horse and Cutting.  Click Here for Roughstock Safety Videos: Part 1 (Bareback)       Part 2 (Saddle Bronc)       Part 3 (Bull Riding)


Girl's events include Breakaway Roping, Barrel Racing, Pole Bending, Goat Tying, Reined Cow Horse, Cutting, Team Roping, Ribbon Roping (Jr High) and the NHSRA Queen contest.


Boys and girls compete together in Team Roping and Ribbon Roping, but are separate in all other events.  Boys and Girls can both compete in Barrels, Poles and Goat Tying in the Elementary school division - only boys can compete in Mutton Busting and Calf Riding in the Mustang Division.


Event Descriptions and Scoring:(Click Here for Rulebook)


Bareback Riding - PLEASE WATCH SAFETY VIDEO ABOVE IF YOU WILL BE COMPETING IN THIS EVENT - this timed event was originally based on the necessary horse breaking skills of a working cowboy, the event is now a highly stylized competition that utilizes horses that often are specially bred for strength, agility, and bucking ability.  The bareback rider does not use a saddle or rein, but uses a rigging that consists of a leather and rawhide composite piece often compared to a suitcase handle attached to a surcingle and placed just behind the horse's withers. The rider leans back and spurs with an up and down motion from the horse's point of shoulder toward the rigging handle, spurring at each jump in rhythm with the motion of the horse.


Barrel Racing -  in this event the horse and rider attempt to complete a clover-leaf pattern around preset barrels in the fastest time.  It combines the horse's athletic ability and the horsemanship skills of a rider in order to safely and successfully maneuver a horse through a clover leaf pattern around three barrels placed in a triangle in the center of an arena.  The timer begins when horse and rider cross the start line, and ends when the barrel pattern has been successfully executed and horse and rider cross the finish line.


Breakaway Roping - is a variation of calf roping where a calf is roped, but not thrown and tied. The calves are moved one at a time through narrow runs leading to a chute with spring-loaded doors. The horse and rider wait in a box next to the chute that has a spring-loaded rope, known as the barrier, stretched in front. A light rope is fastened from the chute to the calf's neck, releasing once the calf is well away from the chute and releasing the barrier, which is used to ensure that the calf gets a head start. Once the barrier has released, the horse runs out of the box while the roper attempts to throw a lasso around the neck of the calf.  Once the rope is around the calf's neck, the roper signals the horse to stop suddenly. The rope is tied to the saddle horn with a string. When the calf hits the end of the rope, the rope is pulled tight and the string breaks. The breaking of the string marks the end of the run. The rope usually has a small bright flag at the end that makes the moment the rope breaks more easily seen by the timer. The fastest run wins.


Bull Riding - HELMETS AND VESTS ARE REQUIRED EQUIPMENT - PLEASE WATCH SAFETY VIDEO ABOVE IF YOU WILL BE COMPETING IN THIS EVENT - in this timed event the rider must stay atop the bucking bull for eight seconds. The rider tightly fastens one hand to the bull with a long braided rope. It is a risky sport and has been called "the most dangerous eight seconds in sports."  The rider mounts a bull and grips a flat braided rope. After he secures a good grip on the rope, the rider nods to signal he is ready. The bucking chute (a small enclosure which opens from the side) is opened and the bull storms out into the arena. The rider must attempt to stay on the bull for at least eight seconds, while only touching the bull with his riding hand. His other hand must remain free for the duration of the ride. The bull bucks, rears, kicks, spins, and twists in an effort to throw the rider off. This continues for a number of seconds until the rider bucks off or dismounts after completing his ride.


Cutting - in the event, the horse and rider select and separate a cow (typically a steer or heifer) out of a small group. The cow then tries to return to its herd; the rider loosens the reins ("puts his hand down" in the parlance) and leaves it entirely to the horse to keep the cow separated, a job the best horses do with relish, savvy, and style. A contestant has 2 ½ minutes to show the horse; typically three cows are cut during a run, although working only two cows is acceptable. A judge awards points to the cutter based on a scale that ranges from 60 to 80, with 70 being considered average. As the cow turns, the horse is to draw back over its hocks and then turn with the cow. The rider is centered over the horse keeping his or her eyes focused on the cow’s neck so as to anticipate the cow’s next move. The horse’s shoulders during a run are parallel with that of the cow’s. The team is judged on how the horse moves in relation to the cow. leg aids may be used to steady a horse and keep them from falling in on the cow or drifting towards the herd throughout a run.


Goat Tying - in this event the participant rides to a goat tethered by a 10' rope to a stake, dismounts, catches, throws, and ties any three of its legs together. The goat must stay tied for six seconds after the contestant has backed away from the animal. If the goat becomes untied before six seconds have passed, the rider receives no score.  A participant may be disqualified for undue roughness while handling the goat, touching the goat after the tie, or after signaling completion of the tie a contestant’s horse coming in contact with the goat or tether while the contestant still has control of the horse.


Pole Bending - this timed event features a horse and rider team, running a weaving or serpentine path around six poles arranged in a line. Setting up the pole bending pattern is crucial to the success of this event. The pole bending pattern is to be run around six poles. Each pole is to be 21 feet (6.4 meters) apart, and the first pole is to be 21 feet (6.4 meters) from the starting line. Poles shall be set on top of the ground, six feet (1.8 meters) in height, with no base more than 14 inches (35 cm) in diameter. The purpose of a universal pattern is to be able to track and compare times everywhere poles are run.


Queen Contest - One queen from each of the NHSRA's 47 states and provinces will take part in the NHSRA National Queen Contest.  Contestants will be judged in the following categories: Modeling (25 points); Personality (25 points); Appearance (25 points); Two-Minute Speech (50 points); Impromptu Speech (25 points); Horsemanship (50 points); and Personal Interview (50 points). The Contestants are graded on their performance by six judges.


Saddle Bronc Riding - PLEASE WATCH SAFETY VIDEO ABOVE IF YOU WILL BE COMPETING IN THIS EVENT - this timed event also has it's origins in the original skills required by cowboys to break horses.  The saddle bronc the rider uses a specialized saddle with free swinging stirrups and no horn. The saddle bronc rider grips a simple rein braided from cotton or polyester and attached to a leather halter worn by the horse. The rider lifts on the rein and attempts to find a rhythm with the animal by spurring forwards and backwards with his feet in a sweeping motion from shoulder to flank.


Steer Wresting - this event features a steer and two mounted cowboys, along with a number of supporting characters. The steers are moved through narrow pathways leading to a chute with spring-loaded doors. A barrier rope is fastened around the steer's neck which is used to ensure that the steer gets a head start. The rope length is determined by arena length. On one side of the chute is the "hazer", whose job is to ride parallel with the steer once it begins running and ensure it runs in a straight line, on the other side of the chute the "steer wrestler" or "bulldogger" waits behind a taut rope fastened with an easily broken string which is fastened to the rope on the steer.


When the steer wrestler is ready he "calls" for the steer by nodding his head and the chute man trips a lever opening the doors. The suddenly freed steer breaks out running, shadowed by the hazer. When the steer reaches the end of his rope, it pops off and simultaneously releases the barrier for the steer wrestler. The steer wrestler attempts to catch up to the running steer, lean over the side of the horse which is running flat out and grab the horns of the running steer. The steer wrestler then is pulled off his horse by the slowing steer and plants his heels into the dirt further slowing the steer and himself. He then takes one hand off the horns, reaches down and grabs the nose of the steer pulling the steer off balance and ultimately "throwing" the steer to the ground. Once all four legs are off the ground, an official waves a flag marking the official end and a time is taken. The steer is released and trots off.


Team Roping - this event is also known as heading and heeling features a steer and two riders. The first roper is referred to as the "header," the person who ropes the front of the steer, usually around the horns, but it is also legal for the rope to go around the neck, or go around one horn and the nose resulting in what they call a "half head," the second is the "heeler," who ropes the steer by its hind feet, with a five second penalty assessed to the end time if only one leg is caught. Team roping is the only rodeo event where men and women compete equally together in professionally sanctioned competition, in both single-gender or mixed-gender teams.


Tie-Down Roping - The goal of this timed event is for the rider to catch the calf by throwing a loop of rope from a lariat around its neck, dismount from the horse, run to the calf, and restrain it by tying three legs together, in as short a time as possible.  When the roper is ready, he (or, in some roping events, she) calls for the calf, and the chute operator pulls a lever opening the chute doors and releasing the calf. The calf runs out in a straight line. When the calf reaches the end of the rope, that trips the lever, the rope falls off the calf, and the barrier for the horse is released, starting the clock and allowing horse and rider to chase the calf.  From a standstill, a rider will put his horse into a gallop from the box shortly after the calf leaves the chute, so that the horse saves valuable seconds by being at near-full speed the moment the barrier releases. The rider must lasso the calf from horseback by throwing a loop of the lariat around the calf's neck. Once the rope is around the calf's neck, the roper signals the horse to stop quickly while he dismounts and runs to the calf. The calf must be stopped by the rope but cannot be thrown to the ground by the rope. If the calf falls, the roper loses seconds because he must allow the calf to get back on its feet. When the roper reaches the calf, he picks it up and flips it onto its side. Once the calf is on the ground, the roper ties three of the calf's legs together with a short rope known as a tie-down rope or "piggin' string". The piggin' string is often carried between the roper's teeth until he uses it. The horse is trained to assist the roper by slowly backing away from the calf to maintain a steady tension on the rope. When the tie is complete, the roper throws his hands in the air to signal "time" and stop the clock. The roper then returns to his horse, mounts, and moves the horse forward to relax the tension on the rope. The timer waits for six seconds, during which the calf must stay tied before an official time is recorded.  


Reined Cow Horse - This is a new optional event with the NHSRA and will be held in a similar fashion to the cutting events.  Please click here for more information on this exciting new event.  Riders will need to perform a reining pattern as well as work cattle in this event.  


Mutton Busting - This event is for the Mustang Division only and is primarily for riders ages 5-6 and under 60 lbs.  Please click here for MDHSRA guidelines for this event.


Calf Riding (MDHSRA utilizes mini-bulls for this event) - This is a stepping stone event for the mustang division and provides a safer experience for riders moving from mutton busting to steer riding (Jr. High) or Bull Riding (High School).    Click here for MDHSRA Guidlines.