Grab your cowboy hat, it’s rodeo time
Vail, CO Colorado
EAGLE ” You may have seen the Pro Bull Riding tour on TV, or caught one of the Beaver Creek Rodeo Series events. But starting today, the full four-day pro rodeo makes its way to the Eagle County Fairgrounds.
The rodeo features an entire lineup each night from Wednesday until Saturday, with some of the top competitors on the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association circuit.
At 8 p.m., the contests kick off, with seven separate events under the lights in the main arena.
Here are the events and ” per recommendation of professional rodeo announcer (and auctioneer) Les Olhauser ” the top competitors.
-Bareback riding: Cowboys will ride rough horses without saddles or reins (they use a leather rigging). Competitors must use one hand to hold on, and can’t touch anything (horse or themselves) with the other hand. While a lot of movement is happening up high, pay attention to the cowboy’s feet, which will be spurring the horse during what should be an 8-second ride (unless they get bucked off before). Being a good rider will get you points, but you need a great horse to earn money.
To watch: A stacked field, according to Olhauser, with 10 contestants boasting 51 total trips to the Wrangler National Finals, three of whom have won a combined eight World Championships. Marvin Garrett and Larry Sandvick each have qualified 12 times to the nationals, and will both be riding horses that pay off well. Royce Ford, son of Bruce Ford, a five-time world champion, will be riding Badger, a horse that has been to the national finals. Will Lowe, whose wife Tiffany is from Eagle, is back, and Burns’ Jerad Schlegel, the 2006 college champion, will be making a hometown appearance. Cimmaron Gerke, last year’s champ at the Eagle rodeo, is also back.
-Saddle Bronc riding: Cowboys use lightweight, hornless saddles and use a long rein attached to the horse’s head. The event requires more finesse than bareback riding and a bit less brute strength. Watch for spurring, and don’t be fooled by those who make it look easy ” it’s really tough.
Into the fire: A young, but very skilled bunch at top. Kaleb Asey is last year’s national high school rodeo champion and is joined by another fresh-out-of-high-school cowboy Tate Owens. Olhauser thinks Owens will be riding at nationals this year.
-Bull riding: If you know one thing about rodeo, it’s probably bull riding. And you also likely know there are some big injuries. Like saddle bronc and bareback riding, cowboys can only use one hand. The bullrope to which cowboys grab onto is thick, and the cowbell at the end is for counterweight on the rope. Staying on a raging animal that weighs ten times you do is no easy task, but it’s a fan favorite. Keep your eyes on the clowns ” they save lives.
Encore: After the all-bullriding event held Saturday, which featured six of the top 20 current riders the world, there is more to come. Mike Moore is a three-time national qualifier.
-Steer Wrestling: Don’t blink. The cowboys, known as bulldoggers, start on a horse in a box, next to a steer. Out first comes the steer, followed by the bulldogger. When he catches up to the steer, the bulldogger jumps off the horse, grabs the steer by the head and flip it on its side. Sounds easy, right? Just watch, but it’s quick to start and end, so … well you get the point. Best time wins.
Ringer: J.D. Crouse of Canon City went to the nationals for both this even and tie down roping.
-Barrel Racing: Who says the guys get to have all the fun? The riders get to choose their horse, which is a good thing. Riders steer their horse around three barrels in a cloverleaf pattern as quickly as possible without knocking over the barrels, which will cost them five seconds each.
Double Eagle: Not only is Tiffany Lowe Burton competing, but Margie Ward of Eagle is also slated to ride. Ward won the Steamboat rodeo last year. Shali Lord of Lamar is the defending champion of the Eagle rodeo, but keep an eye out for Ginger Hathcock, who is fresh off the high school nationals.
-Tie-down roping: Asks a little bit of everything from competitors. The rider starts in the box with the calf, and once its released, the cowboy chases and tries to rope it down. Once the calf is snagged, the cowboy dismounts, runs up and tosses the calf on its side. Then, the cowboy ties three legs together with a string that he’s been holding in his mouth the whole time. Watch for the cowboys’ hands to go up in the air ” this means he’s done.
Root him on: Cody Gerard played basketball for Eagle Valley high school and is top cowboy in the Mountain States Circuit.
-Team roping: Both riders start in the box. Once the calf leaves, the header tosses the rope around its head. When this happens, the header then has to turn the steer and let the heeler shoot for the legs of the calf. Both ropes must be taut for the clock to stop.
All feet: Jesse Echtler of Eagle is the No. 8-ranked heeler in the Mountain States Circuit.
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com.