Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
Hundreds of thousands of people flock to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo every year. Most are drawn to the musical performances and rodeo competitions at Reliant Stadium and the rides, games and foods in the carnival midway outside. But savvy rodeo-goers have discovered great competitions and entertaining shows right in the Reliant Arena.
The rodeo’s horse show takes place outside of the prime-time spotlight, but features traditional riding competitions that draw competitors from around the state and nation. With a little perseverance, it’s easy — and rewarding — to discover Houston’s hottest competitions featuring beautiful animals and riders who love what they do.
Take a look at the most fun events featured in this year’s Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
For full event calendar, click here
Related: A Guide to Reliant Stadium
Cutting Horse Show
The cutting horse competition tests a horse’s skills at controlling or cutting a cow (from a small herd). Riders and horses must last 150 seconds, and the horse is scored by judges in various categories.
Be aware that these competitions are for the early risers, beginning at 8 a.m. over an eight-day span. Those early birds find ample parking options and entertaining competition in five categories sanctioned by the National Cutting Horse Association.
- Thurs, Feb. 23 – American Quarter Horse Association competition
- Fri, Feb. 24 – NCHA non-pro and open competitions
- Sat, Feb. 25 – NCHA $15,000 novice non-pro and youth competitions, non-pro and open finals
- Sun, Feb. 26 – NCHA $5,000 novice non-pro, $15,000 novice non-pro finals at 8 a.m.
- Mon, Feb. 27 – NCHA $10,000 novice horse and $15,000 amateur, $5,000 novice non-pro finals
- Tues, Feb. 28 – NCHA $3,000 novice horse and $35,000 limit non-pro, $10,000 novice horse finals
- Wed, Feb. 29 – NCHA $50,000 limit amateur, $15,000 limit amateur finals
- Thurs, March 1 – $35,000 limit non-pro finals, $50,000 limit amateur finals, $3,000 novice horse finals
Quarter Horse Show
Quarter horses were once primarily cattle roundup and trail driving horses and evolved into racing horses and the go-to work horses on ranches across the country.
The HLS&R quarter horse competition features judging for fitness and overall health, as well as events that test classic equestrian, or hunt, horse abilities, and ranch and trail capabilities. This show is extremely popular among stunningly talented young competitors.
- Sun, March 4 – 8 a.m. roping events
- Mon, March 5 – 8 a.m. speed events
Cowboy Mounted Shooting
The original rodeo cowboys never went anywhere without their six-shooters, and a modern-day rodeo wouldn’t be complete without a competition to test cowboy’s ability to shoot from horseback. Not to worry: Specially prepared blanks are used for the safety of the competitors and spectators.
The HLS&R contest is the world-championship show in which participants attempt to navigate an obstacle course in the arena while shooting at balloon targets with a pair of .45 caliber revolvers. Horse and rider are scored on their abilities to navigate the course in a timely fashion, as well the rider’s ability to hit as many targets as possible while moving at full speed.
- Fri, March 2 – 8 a.m.
- Sat, March 3 – 8 a.m.
Ranch Rodeo Competition
This arena competition allows teams of real-life ranch hands to show off their ranching skills. Competitors compete for bragging rights in branding calves (humanely done with chalk instead of a heated iron), riding broncos, milking wild cows and other ranch-related activities. The HLS&R show features an invitational division and a competition for ranch teams who have qualified in county contests. The competition culminates in a champions’ challenge.
And for those who prefer to sleep in, these competitions take place during more traditional rodeo hours. In exchange, though, be prepared to navigate the bigger crowds to get to the arena.
- Fri, March 9 – 7 p.m. invitational ranch competition
- Sat, March 10 – 11 a.m. qualifying ranch competition
- Sat, March 10 – 7 p.m. champions challenge competition
Donkey and Mule Show
These competitions feature the often-forgotten equine contributors to farm and ranch life: the donkey and mule. But spectators will be entertained by events including a mule-pulling competition and single-hitch driving competition, alongside several of the same competitions featured in the quarter horse show.
Those who have never previously seen these shows often come away with a greater appreciation for the strength and beauty of these animals.
- Fri, March 16 – 2 p.m. western events
- Sat, March 17 – 8 a.m. roping events
- Sat, March 17 – 9 a.m. halter and showmanship
- Sat, March 17 – 11 a.m. coon mule jump
- Sat, March 17 – 1 p.m. mule pull championship
- Sat, March 17 – 4 p.m. English and reining events
- Sun, March 18 – 8 a.m. mule driving and speed events
Lonnie King is a freelance writer living in Houston. His work can be found at Examiner.com.