Saddle Bronc riding, the rodeo’s classic event, is both a complement and contrast to much wilder spectacles we witness in bareback riding and bull riding. Saddle Bronc requires strength, style, grace, and precise timing as well.

This event has evolved from breaking and training horses to working the cattle ranches of the Old West. According to many, this event is the toughest at NFR because of the technical skills required to master this category.

In this event, every move made by the rider must be synchronized with the moment of the horse. Opposite to the wilder and less-controlled rides in bareback events, the cowboy’s objective is a fluid ride in this competition.

A similarity in rules in saddle bronc and bareback riding is that riders in both events must mark out their horses on the first jump from the chute, and to do this properly, the saddle bronc rider must have both heels touching the animal above the point of its shoulders. If the rider misses the mark, he receives a zero score. While a bareback rider has a rigging to hold onto, the saddle bronc rider has only a thick rein attached to his horse’s halter.

Cowboy tries to stay securely seated in his saddle using one hand. If he touches any part of the horse or his own body with his free hand, he is disqualified. Judges score the horse’s bucking action, the cowboy’s control of the horse, and the cowboy’s spurring action.

While striving to keep his toes turned outward, the rider spurs from the points of the horse’s shoulders to the back of the saddle. The rider must maintain that action for the eight-second ride to score well. The bucking ability of the horse is quite naturally built into the scoring system, but a smooth, rhythmic ride is undoubtedly better than a wild, uncontrolled one.

As mentioned above, this entertaining event takes spectators back to the rugged days of the Old West, and the elegance and skill shown by cowboys make it a mesmerizing one.


Participants Facts


The 2023 NFR saddle bronc participants list includes former champion Stetson Wright (2021), leading the standing chart this season. Defending champion Zeke Thurston, who has three world titles since 2016, is entering the 2023 NFR in fourth position.

Another participant, Tanner Butner, surged into the saddle bronc standings after a stressful couple of weeks at the tail end of the season and qualified for his second trip to Las Vegas, scheduled for next month.

He was no. 17 with $112,074.03 season earnings, $4,000 shy of the last, 15th qualifying position. He increased his earnings in the final weeks and qualified and concluded the year at No. 11 with $135,288.

He made a comeback by finishing sixth on “Texas Turd” and fourth place on “Gloria,” earning $1,312 and $2,236, respectively. Following the comeback, he would look to improve on his ninth-place finish in last year’s NFR standings.


Saddle Bronc 2023 Participants

  1. Stetson Wright (1)- $620,256.39
  2. Sage Newman (6) – $247,263.50
  3. Kade Bruno (8) – $225,259.17
  4. Zeke Thurston (9) – $221,919.01
  5. Dawson Hay (29) – $155,974.09
  6. Ben Anderson (34) – $152,390.89
  7. Ryder Wright (36) – $150,402.41
  8. Wyatt Casper (47) – $142,420.78
  9. Chase Brooks (58) – $139,220.98
  10. Layton Green (54) – $136,829.01
  11. Tanner Butner (57) – $135,288.54
  12. Brody Cress (62) – $132,743.15
  13. Damian Brennan (64) – $129,743.87
  14. Lefty Holman (67) – $128,954.60
  15. Ryder Sanford (72) – $125,388.16
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