How to be a Rodeo Cowboy or Cowgirl

Steps to becoming a rodeo cowboy or cowgirl

Cowgirl twirling lasso in rodeo
Cowgirl twirling lasso in rodeo. Pete Saloutos/Getty Images

Rodeo is no longer a sport confined to people who live on ranches and lead a rural lifestyle. It is now open to anyone with a competitive spirit and love of excitement. If you think that rodeo is in your blood, and you would like to become a rodeo cowboy or cowgirl, there are a few things you must keep in mind.

Becoming a rodeo cowboy or cowgirl is a rewarding experience, but it does have its dangers. You need to make an honest assessment of your health and your ability, especially if you are going to ride rough stock. Rodeo cowboys and cowgirls need to be in top health due to the demands this sport places on your body.

I recommend doing these things before becoming a rodeo cowboy or cowgirl and beginning your career:

  • Decide what type of competitor you will be and how far you are willing to travel
  • Find a rodeo association that meets your needs
  • Go to a rodeo school or clinic taught by experienced rodeo cowboys and cowgirls
  • Get some insurance
  • Fill out your forms, pay your dues, and ride

Decide what type of competitor you are and your travel preferences- Most of us can't pick up everything and hit the trail. So thankfully the PRCA has developed the circuit system for the 'weekend warrior' cowboy. Cowboys and cowgirls can stay close to home and still be a serious competitor. The circuits have their own finals and reward systems. Find out what circuit you fall under by clicking the circuit list.​​

There is also numerous state, and even sometimes county level, associations that might fit your needs. I spent a year in the CCPRA (California Cowboys Pro Rodeo Assoc.) before joining the PRCA. It was a great experience and allowed me to learn the ropes before joining the major national association. I will attempt to put together a comprehensive list as time goes on. There are literally thousands of local associations out there. A few are listed in the association's page.

Go to a rodeo school or clinic- Rodeo is learned by doing. There is no substitute for experience. If you don't have the advantage of having a rodeo cowboy or cowgirl in your family, then you need to go to rodeo school. Often taught by championship cowboys, these schools are a great way to try rodeo in a perfect learning environment. There are a few schools that hold numerous classes around the country. This is perhaps the most important step of beginning a rodeo career and becoming a cowboy or cowgirl. For cowboys who want to ride rough stock, I recommend Sankey Rodeo Schools. I have had some personal experience with them and they are a great outfit. Check out my Rodeo Schools category for more information.

Get some insurance- Let's face it. Rodeo is a tough sport. You need some protection just in case a rodeo injury intrudes on your everyday life. Most associations have a great group policy included in the membership fees to protect rodeo cowboys and cowgirls. However, I recommend getting some insurance on your own if possible. You never can be too protected.

Fill out your forms, pay your dues, and ride- Now you have insurance. Found a great association. Have been to a rodeo school and you love it. It's now time to do the paper work. This is the easiest step in your quest to become a rodeo cowboy or cowgirl. Each association has membership dues and requirements that must be completed. This is usually a couple hundred dollars (but don't quote me on that). Once your paper work is filled out and your dues are paid you are now ready to rodeo. Remember, that each rodeo has entry fees that must be paid before you can compete in those individual rodeos.

Let me take the time now to say welcome and congratulations on your entry into the rodeo lifestyle! I know you will suffer bumps and bruises, but I also know that you will have the time of your life both in the arena and out. I hope that your rodeo career, no matter how long and at what level, will be as rewarding to you, as mine was to me.