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.
If 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…