Bareback riders tough as nails at FCPR

<p>Bareback riders, like George Gillespie IV from?Placerville, Calif., have to keep a steady handle on the horse while it’s thrashing around. He is scheduled to compete at this year’s FCPR.</p>

Bareback riding is a roughstock event that is somewhat similar to saddle bronc riding, but the differences definitely are more than just the name.

The high-octane, eight-second (or less) showcase displays the rider’s ability to adjust to change of direction and a wild bucking pattern set by the horse. And all the rider has to hold on to is a rope. It seems like the horse should have the advantage with this one.

But the elite riders stay atop the horse for eight seconds, twisting and turning and nearly altering the laws of physics in order to claim a victory.

Like other roughstock events — bull riding and saddle bronc riding — two judges score the event. One gives the rider a mark for his performance and the other scores the horse.

It’s a man-versus-horse showdown that the horse can win if it bucks hard and changes directions very quickly. If a rider doesn’t properly set his feet and transfer his weight to compensate for the bucking and equilibrium-violating moves it makes, you can almost count on the rider taking a tumble and the horse claiming yet another victim.

To facilitate the bucking motion of a bareback horse, a flank strap is placed around the horse’s hips. It’s more wild and not as smooth as the buck created by the usually bulkier saddle bronc hose, but is really just as entertaining if done properly.

Last year, Joe Gunderson won the event and pocketed $5664 for his efforts. He’ll be back to defend his title and perhaps make a run at the arena record of 89 points by Andy Martinez in 2006.

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