Nothing creates a traffic jam quite like cowboys riding down the freeway, so when we saw police cars escorting a bunch of riders down interstate 59, we were curious to know what it was all about. As it turned out, they were heading downtown to join a parade to mark the opening of the Houston Rodeo – America’s biggest rodeo event. We were planning a trip to a Dude Ranch ourselves, so we thought we’d head on down to get some riding tips.
Here’s what we found out…
- The Americans know how to put on a show! After the obligatory flag waving intro., it was non-stop action for 2 hours, interspersed with fireworks and rounded out by a local band knocking out some classic country music into the evening.
- You are never too young to ride in the rodeo and sheep are a worthy opponent for riders up to 6 years old They call it Mutton busting and the rider who makes it the furthest is awarded a belt buckle on top of bragging rights in the school yard the next day.
- You don’t have to ride something to participate. In an event akin to World War Z meets a petting zoo, fifty contestants charged at a herd of bobby calves in a bid to be the first to wrangle one to the ground, attach a rope halter and haul them back into the ring. The bobby calves were having none of it and managed to outwit most of the contestants. Eventually a wiry fellow managed to coax a bobby calf into the ring by promising it his belt buckle if it cooperated and the crowd roared with applause.
- Women are the smartest contestants. Whilst the men put life and limb at risk, the ladies opt for the much safer event of riding their sure footed steeds around barrels, albeit at tremendous speed (aptly called barrel racing).
- Men are crazy. If they are not throwing themselves off their horses in a bid to wrangle a steer, they are being thrown off a horse or (worse) an angry bull, unless they are skilled enough to hang on for the specified time. Extra points are awarded for style but it wasn’t obvious what the judges were looking for as most of them looked like rag dolls flapping around to me. The chiropractors must’ve been rubbing their hands together with glee!
So after marvelling at their skills (or lack thereof), we felt confident we were adequately prepared for our next venture to the Texan Hill Country to test our roping skills and ride some (not so) wild horses,