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What Is The History Of The One-Hand Bareback Rigging?

The one-hand bareback rigging was invented, designed, and first made by Earl W. Bascom in 1924.

Below: A sketch by Earl W. Bascom showing his one-hand bareback rigging designs.

Sketch of a one-hand bareback rigging



While many of us are too young to remember, the bareback bronc riding event in rodeo didn't always use a one-hand rigging. Prior to 1924 bareback riders used a variety of methods for riding their broncs, including hanging onto the mane, using a rope around the girth, and riding with one or two hands.

It wasn't until a man named Earl W. Bascom, often called the "Father Of Modern Rodeo," designed a one-hand rigging in 1924 that this rigging became the standard in bareback riding. Earl W. Bascom contributed several significant inventions to the sport of rodeo, including:

  • The side-delivery bucking chute in 1916.
  • The reverse-opening, side-delivery bucking chute in 1919.
  • The first hornless bucking saddle in 1922.
  • The one-hand bareback rigging in 1924.
  • He was also the first professional rodeo cowboy to become a professional cowboy artist and sculptor.

The following article on the history of the one-hand bareback rigging was written by Earl W. Bascom's son, John Bascom. We thank him for allowing us to share it with you here.

The History Of The One-Hand Bareback Rigging

By guest author John Bascom.

In 1924 rodeo champion and cowboy artist Earl W. Bascom invented, designed and made rodeo's first one-hand bareback rigging. Bascom's rigging became the standard for modern rodeo.

Earl Bascom started rodeoing in 1916 during the time when rodeo bareback bronc riders used two hands holding onto the horse's mane or holding a twisted rope tied around the horse's girth. When two-handed riggings or surcingles were made and used, Bascom made several varieties himself, starting in 1917 - some with leather handholds and some with iron handholds.

From Etsy

From Etsy. Article continues below.

As there were no standard rules for rodeo, local rodeo committees made their own bareback riding rules and always tried to make it harder for the cowboy to ride. Rules varied, like spurring three times in the shoulders and then high behind, or in the length of the ride with eight second, ten second and twelve second rides or until the horse quit bucking.

Some rodeos stopped two-hand riding, permitting just one hand in a rigging and the other in the air. And yet other rodeos still permitted two-hand riding. Three-handhold riggings were made to accommodate the varying committee rules. Bascom made three-handhold riggings of leather and iron handholds.

By 1924, most rodeos adopted the rule of one-hand bareback riding. But the only riggings available were two-hand and three-handhold riggings, until rodeo equipment designer Earl Bascom made the first prototype of the modern one-hand bareback rigging.

On the Bascom Ranch in Stirling, Alberta Canada, Bascom drew up and cut out the pattern for his one-hand bareback rigging using belting from a thrashing machine. That material proved too slick, so he made a second version out of sole leather for the body with rawhide stitched into the leather handhold to stiffen it.

When the Cowboys Turtle Association (forerunner of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) was formed in 1936, Bascom's rodeo buddy and fellow Canadian, Hughie Long, became the association's director of bareback riding. He used Bascom's leather bareback rigging as the standard for professional rodeo.

Rodeo historian Jim Liles said, "The Bascom Rigging, as it is called, helped make the sport of bareback bronc riding become a wild and exciting rodeo event."

Earl Bascom has been called a "true rodeo pioneer" and the "Father Of Modern Rodeo," and honored in international rodeo and sports halls of fame.

The Bascom rigging and Bascom's side-opening rodeo chute are now mentioned in the new 250th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica in the section on "Rodeo."

You might also like: What Is The History Of The Modern Rodeo Bucking Chute?

Below: Earl Bascom riding a bull in 1939. In addition to the one-hand bareback rigging, Bascom also designed the reverse-opening, side-delivery bucking chute. You can see this type of chute behind him in the photo.

Earl W. Bascom bull riding


Below: Earl Bascom.

Photo of Earl W. Bascom

This article was contributed by guest author John Bascom and is being used with permission.

About The Author

Guest author John Bascom is the son of Earl W. Bascom. We thank him for sharing this article about his father.

For more information about Earl W. Bascom:

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