The Horses Bred for Bronc Riding

Bronc riding is a popular event in rodeos, showcasing the skill and bravery of both the rider and the horse. But have you ever wondered what breed of horses are used for bronc riding? In this article, we will delve into the world of bronc riding and explore the types of horses that are commonly seen in this thrilling event.

When it comes to bronc riding, American quarter horses dominate the scene. These horses, whether registered or not, are typically stocky, compact, and stand at less than 16 hands tall. They possess the strength, agility, and quick reflexes required for the intense and often unpredictable nature of bronc riding.

While quarter horses are the most prevalent, other breeds and types of horses can also be seen in bronc riding. These horses come from various backgrounds, including the racetrack, feed lots, ranches, and other equine disciplines. They may not have been suitable for other activities due to their temperament or behavior, but they excel in the challenging events of bareback riding and saddle bronc riding.

Mares, in addition to geldings, are commonly used in bronc riding. While a mix of mares and geldings can be kept together without significant issues, it is worth noting that disruptions within the herd may occur more frequently. Stallions, on the other hand, are less commonly used in bronc riding due to their potential for disrupting the herd and the possibility of fights when mares are present.

It is important to note that the modern bronc is not a truly feral horse. These horses are specially trained and selected for their bucking abilities. To enhance their bucking behavior during bronc riding events, a flank strap or rope is tightly cinched around the horse’s abdomen. This causes the horse to buck vigorously in an attempt to rid itself of the discomfort caused by the strap.

However, the repeated and forceful bucking can lead to back problems for these horses. The constant pounding they endure from the cowboys can take a toll on their backs. It is crucial for the well-being of bronc horses that they receive proper care and attention to ensure their physical health and comfort.

Bronc riding is an exciting and challenging event in rodeos, and the breed of horses used for this sport predominantly consists of American quarter horses. These horses, along with other breeds and types, are selected for their strength, agility, and suitability to the intense nature of bronc riding. While mares and geldings are commonly used, stallions are less prevalent due to their potential disruptive behavior. It is essential to prioritize the well-being of these horses, as they can develop back problems from the repeated pounding they endure during bronc riding events.

What Breed Are Most Rodeo Horses?

The breed that dominates the rodeo scene is the American quarter horse. These horses are specifically bred for their performance in rodeo events. However, it is important to note that not all rodeo horses are registered quarter horses. Many horses that participate in rodeos are of a quarter horse type, meaning they possess the characteristic traits of the breed.

Key characteristics of rodeo horses include being stocky, compact, and generally standing at a height of less than 16 hands. This compact and sturdy build allows them to excel in the fast-paced and physically demanding events of rodeo.

To summarize, while there may be some variation in the breeds of horses seen at rodeos, the overwhelming majority are American quarter horses or quarter horse types due to their suitability for the various rodeo events.

what breed of horses are used for bronc riding

Where Do Bronc Horses Come From?

Bronc horses, which are used in bareback riding and saddle bronc riding events, are sourced from various places within the equine industry. These horses are specifically chosen for their temperament and athleticism, as they need to possess certain characteristics to excel in these rodeo disciplines.

Here are some common sources from where bronc horses are obtained:

1. Racetracks: Some bronc horses are retired racehorses that did not perform well in traditional horse racing. These horses may have too much speed or a strong inclination to buck, making them unsuitable for racing but ideal for bronc riding.

2. Feed lots: Bronc horses may also be sourced from feed lots, which are facilities where horses are raised for meat production. These horses are often large, strong, and have a natural instinct to buck. They may not have had much human interaction, making them more unpredictable and challenging for riders.

3. Ranches: Many bronc horses are bred and raised on ranches specifically for rodeo events. These ranches breed horses with the desired traits for bronc riding, such as a strong bucking ability and a willing attitude. They are trained from a young age to become familiar with the rodeo environment.

4. Auctions: Some bronc horses are acquired through auctions, where horses of various backgrounds and disciplines are sold. Rodeo contractors and trainers attend these auctions to find suitable horses for bronc riding.

5. Private owners: Occasionally, private horse owners who have horses with the right temperament and bucking ability may offer their horses for bronc riding events. These owners may have trained their horses specifically for rodeo or recognized their potential for bronc riding.

It is important to note that bronc horses are not considered “dangerous” in the sense that they are aggressive or malicious. Instead, they possess a strong instinct to buck, which makes them unsuitable for activities like trail riding or show jumping. However, in the context of bronc riding events, their bucking ability is highly valued and appreciated.

Bronc horses come from diverse backgrounds, including retired racehorses, feed lots, ranches, auctions, and private owners. They are carefully selected for their bucking ability, athleticism, and willingness to perform in rodeo events.

Are Mares Used In Bronc Riding?

Mares are used in bronc riding. While bronc riding is traditionally associated with using stallions, mares are also utilized in this sport. In fact, mixed herds of mares and geldings can be kept together without significant difficulties. However, it is important to note that a mixed herd of mares and geldings may be slightly more prone to disruptions compared to a herd of just geldings.

On the other hand, the use of stallions in bronc riding is less common. Stallions can be disruptive within a herd and may even engage in fights if there are mares present. Therefore, to maintain a harmonious and safe environment, stallions are generally not preferred in bronc riding.

It is worth mentioning that the modern bronc is not a truly feral horse. These horses are trained and managed by humans for the purpose of bronc riding and other rodeo events.

What Makes A Bronc Horse Buck?

A bronc horse bucks primarily due to the use of a flank strap or rope. This strap is tightly cinched around the animal’s abdomen, causing discomfort and irritation. The sensation of the strap prompts the horse to try to rid itself of the torment by bucking vigorously.

To further explain the process, here are the key points:

1. Flank Strap: A flank strap or rope is used to make the horse buck. It is tightly secured around the horse’s abdomen.

2. Discomfort and Irritation: The tightness of the flank strap causes discomfort and irritation for the horse. This sensation prompts the horse to respond by attempting to get rid of the torment.

3. Bucking: In an effort to free themselves from the discomfort, bronc horses respond by bucking vigorously. This is a natural instinct for horses to try to dislodge any perceived threat or irritation.

4. Back Problems: The repeated poundings that bronc horses endure while bucking can lead to back problems. The impact and stress placed on their backs from the forceful movements can result in injuries and long-term health issues.

The use of a flank strap tightly cinched around the abdomen of a bronc horse causes discomfort, leading to vigorous bucking. This practice can result in back problems for the horses due to the repeated poundings they endure.


Bronc riding is a popular event in rodeos that showcases the strength, agility, and spirit of the American quarter horse. These horses, whether registered or not, are specially bred or selected for their stocky build and compact size, making them ideal for the intense demands of bronc riding.

While mares and geldings are commonly used in rodeo events, stallions are less common due to their potential disruptiveness in a mixed herd. The majority of broncs are not true feral horses but rather come from various sources such as racetracks, feed lots, and ranches. These horses are often considered too dangerous for other equine activities, but their unique temperament and athleticism make them perfect for the high-energy events of bareback riding and saddle bronc riding.

However, it’s important to note that the use of a flank or bucking strap around the horse’s abdomen is a controversial aspect of bronc riding. This strap is tightly cinched, causing the horse to buck vigorously in an attempt to rid itself of the discomfort. Unfortunately, this can lead to back problems for the horses over time.

Bronc riding is a thrilling and challenging sport that requires both skill and courage from the riders, as well as the strength and resilience of the horses. While there are concerns about the welfare of the animals involved, efforts are being made to improve their well-being and ensure their safety during these events.

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William Armstrong

William Armstrong is a senior editor with, where he writes on a wide variety of topics. He has also worked as a radio reporter and holds a degree from Moody College of Communication. William was born in Denton, TX and currently resides in Austin.