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Kids’ rodeo is all about the fun of competition

Christine Ina Casillas

After a rainstorm drenched the Eagle County Fairgrounds Tuesday, leaving puddles of mud in the arena, the kids’ rodeo continued as planned.

“Tonight’s fun night,” said Eagle resident Susan Adams.

The riders and horses all had been competing for the last two days in English and western classes, jumping fences, riding elegantly and trying to win the blue ribbons.



“There’s a lot of horses here tonight that are really tired,” Adams said. “They’ve been out in the hot, hot weather for the last two days.”

But Tuesday’s festivities, the Eagle County Youth and Open Gymkhana show, allowed the riders and horses to let their hair down. Gymkhana is a rodeo for kids, sometimes giving away prizes but mainly allowing the kids and other competitors to just have fun.



“The horses have to be under control and with conditions, though,” said Jenny Wood, Eagle County 4-H coordinator. “They’re just here to have a good time and have fun.”

The events scheduled for the show included barrel racing, pole bending, flag racing and key hole racing. Each event was separated by age groups ranging from 6 to adult.

For some competitors, the show was a first-time experience.



It was the first kids rodeo for 6-year-old Mariah Dermody.

“This is the first time she will be running in an arena with a crowd,” said her father Bill Dermody, a professional rider. “She loves riding. She used to come with me on the road all the time, so she’s used to being around horses.”

A former mutton bustin’ rider, Dermody rode Dotty, her father’s pick-up horse that he has used in rodeos to help bull and bronco riders get off their steeds without getting seriously injured, gored or stomped on by pounding hooves.

“She used to ride sheep,” Bill Dermody said about his daughter and laughed.

Eagle County resident Kacie Hill, 12, said she enjoyed the event because it was the first time she ran barrels.

“I used to ride piggy back with my dad all the time,” Hill said. “But this was fun. My horse is really, really spoiled.”

Other competitors were disappointed by some of the events because of the rain. They weren’t allowed to really gallop around the barrels because of the slick ground, Wood said.

“Most of these horses are barrel racers, so it’s killing them not to be able to go fast,” said Sally Tuitman, a Boulder resident. “You can see them getting jumpy and fidgety. They want to run.”

Eagle County resident Clayton Gerard, 11, riding Toughy, just sighed.

“It’s no fun if we can’t go fast,” Gerard told Wood before the show.

After the show, Gerard said he didn’t do as well or go as fast as the last events. But as the night drew on, the riders were allowed to step their speed up a notch.

“Just as long as you stay on your horse, you’re doing fine,” Wood said. “Just don’t fall off.”

Tuitman drove to the event from Boulder with her two daughters. Hayley Tuitman, 12, broke her arm riding at a horse camp, she said.

“It’s like a field day on a horse,” Tuitman said about the gymkhana show.

Tuitman vacations in the valley every summer and attends the rodeo every year, she said.

“My grandfather used to work for the Forest Service in Eagle,” she said. “I’m the only one in the family who didn’t get a chance to live here, so I come here on vacations, instead.”

Jim and Et Wood of Carmel Valley, Calif. sat near the arena, watching their granddaughter, Kendra Parker.

“We visit once a year to see the progress,” said Jim Wood.

The warm-up session alone drove some competitors to test their skills.

“Charlie, there’s three barrels,” said one competitor to her horse while in the ring.

Frisky, feisty, jumpy horses bounced around the arena.

“It’s fun,” Adams said. “To see all of these beautiful horses at the show yesterday with their hair and tails done up and the riders in their outfits – perfect. Now, they’re just trashed and muddy. But that’s what it’s all about … just to have fun.”

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at ccasillas@vaildaily.com.


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