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Why yes, this was our first rodeo!

Why yes, this was our first rodeo!

Rodeos conjure up images of the Wild West and a bygone era, though there are still big cattle ranches and cowboys who ride out with the herds. For those of us who live in the city, there are guest ranches where you can try your hand at driving cattle and after watching this, we’re tempted to try out the barrel racing!

While not exactly on our bucket list, a rodeo was still something we wanted to see at least once, especially with our family’s Texan heritage!

We went to the 64th annual rodeo in Coulee city, Washington, a stop on the professional rodeo circuit and a town with a population of 600 people.  Even for such a small town, the winnings reached $32,000 with the annual rodeo including traditional events like tie down roping, team roping, saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding, bull riding and barrel racing.

I must admit I was a little concerned about the treatment of the animals, until during the bull riding competition, two of the bulls decided they didn’t want to play today and they just sat there and were allowed to sit until time ran out.  Those Cowboys weren’t going to be winning any prizes that day!

Each rodeo starts off with a parade, with rodeo queens galloping their horses around the arena carrying flags from their various states and towns.  In our case, two of the riders lost their seats and ended up in the dirt, but they got right back up.  I guess coming off your horse isn’t all that unusual!

The bucking Broncs stopped as soon as their riders came off with many riders not lasting the 8 seconds required for a qualifying ride, even to us it felt like a long 8 seconds!  Points are awarded for both how the horse bucks (Broncs buck differently than riding horses) and how the rider holds on.  We tried to figure out what the judges were looking for, but most of the time, the ones we thought did really well got fewer points than the ones we found less impressive.

Our favorite event was barrel racing, where a horse and rider attempt to complete a standard cloverleaf pattern around three barrels in the fastest time, with the time recorded down to a hundredth of a second and winning times of generally 13-14 seconds.  Barrel races are held both indoors and outdoors and the composition of the arenas is never the same, so the horses need to be trained under a lot of different conditions.   The tightness of the turns around the barrels was amazing, and some of the horses looked like they were running almost sideways as they went around, flattening out to run full speed towards the finish line.  While I’m comfortable on a horse, when it gallops at full speed, it’s usually not because I’ve asked it to!

Rodeos were not originally a sporting event, but part of a way of dividing and transporting cattle that began with the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century.  The sporting event began as a way for cowboys and vaqueros to test their skills against each other with amateur rodeos starting in 1872, and the first professional rodeo in 1888. Today, 9,500 men and women compete at 650 rodeos annually, mostly in the U.S. and Canada.

Armadillo Rodeo Travel with ChildrenIf you’re planning a trip to a rodeo, make sure to read Armadillo Rodeo first, where the Armadillo mistakes a pair of “pointy-toed, high-heeled, hand-tooled chili-pepper red boots with fancy cutwork, tall tops, and a Curly H brand,” for another armadillo and spends the day chasing after his new friend…


  1. Oh wow what an interesting experience – like you said this would not be on my bucket list but certainly something I would like to see (as long as the animals are treated well). I know my son would love to action of all of this and I love horse riding so from that aspect it would be very interesting and it’s such a cultural thing deep in Texan heritage.

    Great post and thanks for the advice on the book – looks like such a sweet story

    Laura x

  2. Wow! That’s so cool. My boy loves watching Sherrif Callie on tv. Nothing like a rodeo over here in England, but I’d love to experience one some day. Sarah #WhateverTheweather

  3. Wow, what a great thing to watch! Bet it was exciting. I love horses but this is another level! Great post and good to learn a little of the story behind the rodeo. #whatevertherweather

  4. Rodeos are so much fun – we’ve been a bunch of times to the one in Steamboat Springs, CO. There’s a half hour time window when all the kids can run out with the sheep and my girls, being east coast girls, never do. But fun to watch! #mondayescapes

    • They had a stick pony race for the kids, but I think mine would have preferred running out with the sheep!

  5. Wow, cool pictures, I’ve always wanted to go to a rodeo!

  6. That looks so much fun to watch! I can’t believe the angle of that horse on going round the barrel, I doubt I could stay on! Funny that the Bulls just sat there, good for them! Thanks for linking up with #Whatevertheweather x

  7. I’d love to go to a rodeo and this looks brilliant. My son would be so interested. I love how the bulls sat it out though and refused to come out! Brilliant. Thanks for sharing on #MondayEscapes ps. please do add our badge if you can remember next time 🙂

  8. It’s exciting stuff, ain’t it? I went to rodeos as a little girl and then I moved from California to Montana and rodeos became a bi-weekly event because there was nothing else to do haha #WeekendWanderlust

    • I’m not sure I’d want to go that often!. Did you learn to ride?

  9. I have never been to a rodeo! This is something I have to add to my bucket list. Looks like lots of fun!

    • The skill level was amazing!. I still don’t understand how some of those horses held their footing.

  10. Looks like a great experience with kids! I will try this with my boys when back in the mid-Weest/West again.

  11. Sounds like the rodeo is an awesome place to visit and take the kids. I love that you’ve written the book that links into it too – so clever #WeekendWanderlust

    • Thank you!


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