How to Ride a Steer
There are several different reasons you may be wondering about how to ride a steer. If you’re looking for an unrivaled adrenaline rush, you might be after some advice on how to ride a bull. This article also contains some initial information on getting into bull riding by riding steers. Riding steers isn’t limited to those looking to improve their rodeo credentials, however. Steers are ridden freely for transportation, just like horses. With a bit of patience, you can safely learn to ride your steer around the farm, on local trails, to your friend's house, or even casually around the city or downtown to the store or in the next holiday parade.
Riding a Steer Outside the Rodeo Ring
Train your steer to let you ride it.Not all cattle will be willing to let you ride them without training. You will likely need to “break” a steer in order to ride it, much in the same way horse breakers break horses. While most steer are good-natured and mild-mannered, they have to get used to the concept of allowing a human to sit on them. If possible, begin training a steer when they are a calf.
- Make the steer comfortable with you by spending time with it and petting it. Over time, gradually place more and more pressure on their back. Once they’re comfortable with you leaning most of your weight on their back, they will likely allow you to sit on them.
- Start by getting the steer comfortable with having weighted items on its back. Start with a blanket, then try two. When the steer is used to the blankets, add a saddle.
- If you do not have experience breaking animals to be ridden, consider seeking the help of a professional to help you do so. However you go about breaking your steer, take extreme caution when doing so.
- As an alternative, you could send your steer to a trainer, who will break them and send them back fully trained.
- Note that rodeo bulls are not trained to let people ride them. Quite the opposite; rodeo bulls are often antagonized by electric prods in the shoot, and painful spurs worn by bull riders. Information on riding a bull is included in the following section.
Find an extra wide saddle.Since riding steers is not as common as riding horses, it can be hard to find the right equipment. Still, you can likely find either a western or dressage saddle that will fit your cattle. If you cannot find saddles specifically designed for steers, saddles designed to be worn by draft horses can work just fine.
- Similarly, you’ll also need to adjust a horse bridle to fit on your steer’s head. Since the dimensions of cattle heads are different from horses, you’ll likely need to shorten or lengthen certain parts of a halter, so get one that’s adjustable.
Steer cattle with a nose bit.While horses are steered with a mouth bit-attached bridle, a saddled steer is steered with a different type of tack. Most commonly, a nose ring – usually just a metal ring – is used to pierce a steer’s septum. This provides a method of steering, as the ring is attached to a bridle on the animal's head, which is also attached to the reins you’ll hold while riding in the saddle.
- Steering with reins is especially intuitive. In order to go left, pull on the left side of the reins, attached to the left side of the steer’s bridle, and vice versa. To slow down, pull back on both sides of the reins.
Show off your steer at community events.Saddled steers are a big hit at local parades, and you’re sure to get some laughs and cheers. Even better, ride your steer to a friend’s birthday party or to your neighborhood senior center.
- Consider riding your steer at a riding show. Ask others in the cattle and horse community in your area about shows they’ve attended that allowed cattle to be shown. Contact venues that host equestrian events to see if they host events where you could show your steer.
Trail ride your steer.Steers are especially good animals to ride in the wild. For one, it takes a lot more to spook a steer than a horse. Further, when a steer is spooked, it tends to simply hold its ground and wait out whatever scared it. Compared to a horse, you may actually be safer riding a steer in an area with wild animals!
Riding Steer to Perform Common Tasks
Develop your riding abilities.Riding a steer is a great way to get into riding events, generally. Steers are taught to perform in obstacle courses, racing, and other recreational riding shows.
- Most of the tasks and activities commonly enjoyed with a horse can likely be done with a steer as well. Granted, your steer will not be able to jump quite as high, nor run as fast.
Desensitize horses to steers.One of the bonuses of riding a steer may be the added utility of a steer that can help train horses. Some horses are skittish or aggressive around cattle until they spend enough time around them to learn that they are not a threat. A great way to acclimate a horse to being around cattle is to ride your steer while someone else rides the horse. This will help the horse recognize that cattle aren’t much different than they are.
Keep the other cattle in line.Believe it or not, you can even learn to rope or herd cattle from the back of a steer. Though the other cattle may not take you and your steer seriously at first, keep pestering them and they’ll eventually fall in line. In fact, they may come to be even more comfortable with you when they see you on the back of one their own instead of on a horse.
Riding Steer Prior to Riding Bulls
Get in great shape.Riding a rodeo bull is not something you can just jump into. Even at the professional level, the expected amount of time a capable adult human will stay on a rodeo bull is 8 seconds. Even with training, the amount of strength, focus, and balance required to last those 8 seconds is immense. If you hope to get into "riding" cattle that try to buck you off, start an integrative strength training regimen, such as yoga or mixed-martial arts.
- You’ll likely need to improve your overall strength, balance, and responsiveness in order to successfully "ride" a steer. Integrative core exercises are great for this, as they can help you increase your stability, reduce the chance of injury, and maintain mobility.
- Bodyweight exercises, such as planks, push ups, and yoga position that require you to balance are great exercises to start with.
- Talk to others in the bull riding community about what exercises they do to strengthen their legs and core.
Ride a steer in a rodeo.If you hope to someday ride a bull, you can start by riding steers that are less likely to buck you off immediately. Young people who hope to be bull riders have steer riding rodeo that operate similarly to rodeos, but with less dangerous and aggressive cattle. Contact a local rodeo organization to see if they host bucking steer riding competitions.
Seek the help of a professional.If you can find someone who is willing to show you the ropes (literally), they might even be able to help get you in the ring to practice riding a bucking steer. Reach out to rodeo facilities in your area to see if they know of anyone who offers training on how to ride bucking cattle. They may offer lessons that start you out with a beginner steer until you're ready to move on to a more difficult, stronger, more frightened steer.
- A professional will also be the best source of knowledge regarding the specific type of safety equipment you’ll need to get in the ring the first time.
- Expect to need a helmet, boots with spurs, and leather chest and leg protection. You may be able to borrow or rent this equipment when you’re first starting out.
Wrap a bull rope around the steer.Bull ropes have a loop on one end, as well as a handle along the length of the rope. Wrap the rope beneath the steer’s chest and behind its shoulders. Thread the tail of the rope through the loop on the other end. Make sure the handle, which is usually leather, is positioned on top of the steer.
- In training conditions, your trainer will likely help you wrap the rope or check to make sure you did so correctly until you get the hang of it.
Position yourself on the steer.Since the animal will be corralled in a tight chute before being released into the ring, you will easily be able to climb onto its back. Stepping off one side of the chute, you’ll swing your other leg over its back and onto the steer’s other side. Do so carefully, as he may try to shift or buck immediately. Once you’re on, scoot forward towards his shoulders. The handle of the rope should be between your thighs.
- Squeeze the animal’s body with your legs and spurs. Keep your feet in front of the rope at all times.
Grip the rope.You’re only allowed to hold on with one arm when competing in a bull riding competition. Slip your hand beneath the rope where the handle is located. Adjust the rope to maintain the handle’s position in the center of the steer’s back. Pull the tail side of the rope to tighten the rope down on your hand. Wrap the rope’s tail around the hand that is tightly gripping the handle.
- Nod to the gate operator once you’re ready to ride. The chute will open and your ride will begin. Hold on tight!
Respond to the animal’s movement.React to the steer to try and stay on him. Engage your core and leg muscles to try to keep yourself seated on the steer's back. Pull up on the rope to center yourself and pull yourself into its back. Avoid leaning too far forward or too far back. Sit up straight with your chest stuck out and your free hand in the air to help balance.
- If the steer goes up on his hind legs, lean forward over his shoulders and head.
- If he kicks his back legs up, keep your butt against his body and lean back slightly or he’ll buck you over his head.
- Continue squeezing the bull with your legs and spurs throughout the ride.
Count to eight.In competitive bull riding, you must stay on the bull for 8 seconds in order to receive a score for your ride. Otherwise, the clock will stop once the bull bucks you off. The clock will also stop if you use your other arm to touch yourself, the bull, or the ground at any point. These same rules usually apply in rodeo bucking steer riding competitions, as they are often considered to be training competitions for soon-to-be bull riders.
Dismount safely.Once you've had enough, look for your chance to dismount. When the steer moves in the opposite direction of your riding hand, let go of the rope. For instance, if you’re holding the rope with your right hand, wait for the steer to start moving left. The rope will loosen, allowing you to jump off.
- Jump off sideways and backwards, moving away as you land.
- If you fall during the ride, try to get as much distance between you and bull as you can while you’re falling. If possible, push off of the steer. As you land, immediately roll onto your feet and run away. If there are rodeo clowns in the ring, move towards them, as the clowns may be able to distract the animal away from you.
QuestionHow old should the steer be?Top AnswererSteer should be over a year old to be able to be old enough to be ridden. Preferably they should be closer to 2 years old, though.Thanks!
QuestionShould an eleven-year-old start by riding steers in rodeos?Top AnswererAn eleven-year-old should start by working with a seasoned bull rider before he starts thinking about going to compete in rodeos. But riding steers is a better place to start than bulls, for sure.Thanks!
QuestionCan I ride a heifer as I would ride a steer?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes. Any bovine is rideable, including heifers, and even bulls.Thanks!
Video: Jr. Rodeo calf, steer, and bullriding!
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