Part of the culture of small-town Alberta is the summer rodeo. Our friends Marlow and Marla have an acreage near Sundre, Alberta - it's a beautiful spot in the foothills. And the Sundre Rodeo was the weekend of June 21. What better way to spend "the longest day of the year" than at a small-town rodeo? We packed our bags and set off to spend the weekend in Sundre.
We had a great afternoon visiting M&M at their place - it was a great day - sunny, warm - an ideal day. We went into town for a nice dinner then went on down to the rodeo grounds.
Of course, there was a mini midway set up with rides and amusements. We spent some time wandering around. The thing I like is all the bright colours.
Marla and Marlow.
Now I've provided this disclaimer before, but will again - many of the pix are tipping sideways - this is a testament to the fact that I'm not a professional photographer - I do try, but taking "straight" pictures is a skill that seems to elude me - even when I remember to try! So apologies about that in advance.
"Are you tough enough to wear pink?" - you will notice that many of the cowboys/girls are wearing pink - this is something that started a year or so ago. One day of the rodeo is dedicated to raising awareness and funds for breast cancer and one tactic for doing this is to encourage everyone to wear pink. So that's why you'll see all the pink shirts. This is not typical attire for cowboys!
Think Pink Day: Saturday is think pink day, everyone is asked to wear pink to support Breast Cancer Awareness.
Marlow, Marla and Joe.
Wild Cow Milking
This is the most physically demanding rodeo event. Using one arm, the cowboy holds onto the rawhide handhold of a riggin (a leather pad cinched around the horse's girth). The handhold is snug-fitting and is customized to the individual's grip. The stress on the rider's arm is intense as the riding arm absorbs most of the horse's power.
A bareback rider will be disqualified for touching the animal or equipment with his free hand, or bucking off before the end of the eight-second ride.
The bareback rider tries to reach as far forward as he can with his feet, then rolls his spurs back up toward the riggin. At the same time, he must keep from being pulled away from the handhold. The higher and wilder the rider spurs, the higher the marks.
Tie Down Roping
Tie-down roping is the most technical event in rodeo. It takes long hours of practice to perfect both the roper's and the horse's skills.
The roper is positioned behind a rope barrier in the starting box until the tie-down animal crosses the score line. The length of the scoreline is the head start given to the tie-down animal. Not allowing the required head start will break the rope barrier and adds 10 seconds to a roper's time.
After roping the tie-down animal, the cowboy must run down his rope and lay the animal down by hand. If the tie-down animal is down when he reaches it, he must allow the tie-down animal to get up then lay it down. The roper ties three of the tie-down animal's legs with a piggin string - usually two wraps and a half hitch. The tie must hold for six seconds after the roper calls for the time and slackens the rope. The tie-down roper's horse is all-important. The horse must gauge the speed of the animal, stop on cue in a single stride, then hold the rope taut while the roper runs to the tie-down animal. A solid true-working horse is difficult to find and commands a high price.
A tie-down roper is disqualified for jerking the tie-down animal straight over backwards and fined for using unnecessary roughness.
Junior Steer Riding
JUNIOR STEER RIDING
This event is the training ground for future bull riders. Young cowboys aged 10 – 14 compete on wirey bovines.
As with the other roughstock events one half of the score is awarded for the contestant’s ability to ride and the other half is for the stock’s ability to buck. The cowboys are allowed to ride with one hand or two.
If they elect to ride with only one – they must abide by the rules for bull riding – whereby they will be disqualified for slapping the animal, themselves or double grabbing with both hands during the eight seconds.
Wild Pony Ride
WILD PONY RACING
Hold on to your hats – this fun event will get you caught up in the excitement.
Teams of three youngsters ages 8 to 12 try to tame a wild pony long enough to get a rider aboard for a two jump ride. The team with the fastest time wins.
These gritty competitors don’t give up easily – so get your cheering voice ready!
This team won the event this night. This is an all girl team - "The Dirty Girls" - you gotta love that!
Timing, coordination and strength are prerequisites for a steer wrestler. The steer wrestler starts behind a barrier, which is a rope stretched across the front of the starting box that is tripped by the steer crossing the score line giving it a head start. If the steer wrestler does not allow the steer a fair head start, a penalty of 10 seconds is added to his time. The steer wrestler's horse is trained to run by as the steer wrestler reaches for the steer. The steer wrestler then grabs the steer's left horn, taking the right horn in the crook of his right elbow. As his feet hit the ground, with his legs extended forward, he slides the steer to a halt. (The steer must be on its feet before being thrown.)
Using his left hand as leverage under the steer's jaw, and the momentum of the running steer, the steer is rolled to the ground. The steer must be flat on its side with all four legs extended on the same side before the official time is taken. This event requires an extra horse ridden by a hazer, who keeps the steer running as straight as possible. Control and speed are required from both horses as they wait for their cue to start, then cover about 46 metres in four seconds from a standing start.
You win some....
Rhythm is the key in this event. The rider moves his feet from the horse’s neck in a full arc toward the back of the saddle in time with the bronc’s action. The cowboy must ride in a saddle built to CPRA specifications with a braided rein connected to the horse’s halter. The cowboy uses this rein for balance. Where a cowboy holds onto the rein is very important. If he takes too short of rein, he will be pulled over the front, too long he may be bucked off the back.
The rider will be disqualified for touching any part of the horse or his equipment with his free hand, losing a stirrup or being bucked off before the end of the eight-second ride.
A rodeo clown is a rodeo performer who works on bull riding contests. Also called a bull fighter, historically the primary job of the rodeo clown is to protect the rider from the bull after he dismounts or is bucked off, by distracting the bull and providing alternative targets for the bull to chase. Additionally, bull fighters may improve the bull rider's score by turning a bull back that runs down the arena (for example, by grabbing his horn or getting the bull to follow him while the rider is on his back). Rodeo clowns also provide traditional clowning entertainment for the crowd between rodeo events, often parodying aspects of cowboy culture.
Barrel racing is the only women's event at the Calgary Stampede. As with tie-down roping, barrel racing requires close cooperation and teamwork between horse and rider.
In the barrel racing competition, contestants circle three barrels in a cloverleaf pattern. Time is marked with the use of an electronic eye timer. A rider may touch or even move a barrel. However, if she knocks over the barrel, a five-second penalty will be added to her total time.
As far as I know, barrel racing is the only women's rodeo event (not just at the Calgary Stampede) - rodeo is still very much a "man's game" - to be honest, I think it's mostly because most women are just too smart to want to risk getting killed by a raging bull, but that's just me....
There are a number of songs dedicated to barrel racing. There is one by James Keeleghan called Number 37 and another by Ian Tyson called Barrel Racing Angel. And I know there will be tons of other songs devoted to various aspects of rodeo - it is part of the history and culture in this part of the world so shows up in a lot of different places. There are still real working cowboys out there.
There were a few more events, but it was getting too dark to get good pix - they were out of focus.
I don't think any of us are rabid rodeo fans, but we all had a fun day. It was a fun thing to do with friends. The weather was perfect. A small rodeo like this is a lot more fun than the Calgary Stampede, which is just a big money sucking machine.