Sunday, May 12, 2013

Western Heritage Classic – Abilene, Texas – Episode 2

The Ranch Rodeo

First – I have a confession to make. I believe that I am the only person ever born in Oklahoma and living in their 6th (ouch) decade of life to have never attended a rodeo. Now I can put that shameful secret behind me – as we attended the Ranch Rodeo at the Western Heritage Classic.

This is a ranch rodeo, not a professional rodeo. These are real cowboys from real working ranches participating in events that mirror their everyday life. (Real cowboys don't ride bulls). There were 10 ranches competing against each other for top honors. 8 teams from Texas ranches, one from Oklahoma and one from Nebraska.

Please understand when looking at these pictures – it is – I found out – just about impossible to take good pictures of moving horses with an iPhone. 

On to the rodeo

Opening event – The National Anthem.

Sung as it was meant to be sung – no embellishments to the melody and every cowboy and everyone – EVERYONE - in the audience covered their heart with their hat (white cowboy hats outnumbered every other hat 20-1 (ball caps 100-1) ) or their hand. These folks take their patriotism, and their cowboy hats, seriously.

In each of the following events points were awarded to the ranches not to the individual cowboys.

Bronc Busting

This is not how horses are broken to saddle in this day and age. However, every cowboy must be able to ride a bucking horse as you never know when the one that your saddle is on will buck. In this event the cowboys use their everyday saddle and stirrups, bit and bridle and saddle the bronc themselves. This was much in evidence when a cowboy and his saddle slid down the neck and over the head of his horse. He did not get a very good score on that ride and is probably still paying the price among his peers for his mess up.

Cutting Cattle

These cattle were, I believe, yearlings. Each had a number. 4 team members, on horse back, lined up on one side of a line with the cattle on the other. When a number was called out the clock started and one cowboy would head in to the herd, cut that number out and drive him back across the line. The other 3 cowboys had to keep all the other cattle on their own side of the line. Once the correct number was across the line he had to be roped, head and hind leg, and put on the ground. The ropes were immediately removed and the clock stopped. Cattle #4 was the comic relief as when his number was called and the cowboy almost had him across the line, he decided that he did not like this so much that he not only headed back to the herd but jumped the fence to get back in the corral. 
#4 Planning His Escape if necessary

#4 Making Good On His Escape Plans
I wish I had a picture of him going over the fence.

Calf Branding

Don't worry – no animal was actually branded. A herd of calves and momma cows was brought in. The cowboys had to wade in, lasso a calf, get it to his team mates, on the ground, who would hold it down as another cowboy brought in a “branding iron” that had been dipped in talcum powder. Then they had to get a second calf and do the same. As soon as the second calf was released the clock stopped. 2 teams were working the herd at the same time. 

Team Sorting

A herd of 30 cattle were brought in. Each animal had a number 1 through 10. So there were 3, 1s, 3 2s, etc. Again 4 team members. A number was called out, one cowboy would go in and cut the 3 number whatevers from the herd while the other team members kept the cut cattle from going back to the herd or the herd from crossing the line (not easy in the least). After all 3 were across the line they had to get herded in to a round pen. Too often after cutting 1 or 2 out of the herd they would get past the horses and back to the herd and it was in general a chinese fire drill. It was amazing, even with the clock running, how patient both cowboy and cowhorse were. It was fascinating to watch these horses work the cattle.


Not only are the cows wild – the event is wild. One wild cow is let lose. One cowboy on horseback has 2 chances to lasso the cow. If lassoed, then 2 other cowboys come in to control the cow. The cow must remain standing. A 4th cowboy comes in with a beer bottle (yes a longneck beer bottle) and must get some (not a lot) of the cow's milk in to the bottle. It was a riot! Lots of clinging to cow tails and being dragged around the arena by said cow's tail.

The Cows - Don't be lulled in to a false
sense of security thinking these girls are
calm and tame!

None of the cattle involved in the rodeo are like timid, tame, dairy cows. These are all straight off the ranch wild cattle. Each event in the rodeo has real world application for these cowboys and their horses. I think this was way cooler than going to a professional rodeo.

Congratulations to Swenson Land & Cattle Company for their 2nd win in a row. There were also awards for “Top Hand” (best cowboy) and “best all around horse”. So each cowboy and his horse was being scrutinized at all times regardless of what the clock was doing.

The event was great, the people we met were amazing – the most friendly, welcoming folks you can imagine. A special shout-out to Penny and James Fowler who we met at the fiddlers contest. They own Lone Star Farms in Desdemona, TX and raise quarter horses and thoroughbreds. They invited us to their home but it is 80 miles in the wrong direction of travel for this trip. Next time through Texas – I plan on stopping there and seeing a real Texas spread up close and in person.

1 comment:

~Cheryl said...

Very different from any rodeo I ever attended! Wild cow milking ... what a hoot!