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What Is The Mark Out Rule?

The "mark out" rule (also called the "spur out" rule) is a rule used in the rodeo events of saddle bronc riding and bareback bronc riding. The mark out rule requires bronc riders to have the rowels of both spurs in front of, and touching, the break of the bronc's shoulders on its first move out of the chute. The rider's feet must still be in this position when the bronc's front feet hit the ground for the first time. This is called "marking a horse out." If a male bronc rider (saddle bronc or bareback) fails to mark a horse out with one or both feet they will receive a no score.

In the photo below the saddle bronc rider's left foot is in the the required position to mark the bronc out. His right foot cannot be seen in the photo, but needs to be in the same position on the right side. His feet must remain in this position until the bronc's front feet hit the ground for the first time.

The mark out rule being demonstrated by a saddle bronc rider

In the photo you can also see one of the two rodeo judges (in the striped vest) keeping a watchful eye on the saddle bronc rider as he comes out of the bucking chute. A bronc rider (saddle bronc and bareback) must mark a horse out with both feet, so there is another judge that can't be seen in the photo keeping an eye on the other side.

The mark out rule as described above is a very common rule, but is intended to be a general description. Rules can and do vary from one bronc riding event to another depending on what governing body is sanctioning the event.

The Mark Out Rule For Women
In women's professional rodeo women compete in bareback bronc riding but not saddle bronc riding. In bareback bronc riding, women also compete under the mark out rule. However, if a female bronc rider fails to mark a horse out she will have five points for each side not marked out deducted from her score instead of receiving a no score. 

Waiving The Mark Out Rule

Under certain circumstances the mark out rule may be waived. For example, if a bronc stalls in the chute the judge may tell the rider they can "go on" or "go to the belly." This means the bronc rider can take his (or her) feet to the sides of the horse for the first jump out of the chute instead of having them over the points of the horse's shoulders. Being allowed to go to the belly waives the mark out rule for that one ride.

Below: This horse has stalled in the chute and the mark out rule has been waived for this ride.

The mark out rule is waived for this bronc rider

The Mark Out Rule For Bull Riders

Bull riders do not compete under the mark out rule.

Below: Notice that as this bull makes his first move out of the chute the bull rider has his feet at the bull's sides instead of in front of, and touching, the break of the bull's shoulders. This is because bull riders do not compete under the mark out rule.

A bull and bull rider leaving the bucking chute

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