It has been a long while since I was on the back of a horse. In fact, I joke about it now saying that if I were mounted the horse would probably look around and say “Two of you are gonna have to git off.” And it has been even longer since I actually participated in a rodeo. However, I have been asked to give a quick capsule of what takes place at a rodeo so those of you new to the area and/or sport will know what is going on.
Saturday is the eighth annual edition of the David Eggleston Memorial Rodeo and it has been moved from the Waxahachie Rodeo Complex to the Cowboy Church out on Highway 287 due to the inclement weather.
With the Eggleston rodeo in mind I will briefly give a rundown of what will happen.
First off is the grand entry. Contestants and just about anyone with a horse, or mule, can ride in the grand entry. And that is just what it is. It starts off with the entry of the American and Texas flags. Then other folks sitting astride their favorite mount follow, winding their way around the arena before America and her flag are saluted.
Once the arena clears the action begins. Events are not the same at every rodeo, so I will give a breakdown of those at the Eggleston.
A team of two ropers, one called the header and one called the heeler, combine to rope a steer by the head (hence header) and by the steer’s back legs of heels (heeler). When the header makes the catch, he or she then dally off the rope - winding the rope around the saddle horn. Then the header turns the steer so that the heeler can throw a loop to catch one or two legs. If successful, the ropers turn their horses toward the steer and keep the ropes taut. When that takes place the arena man will drop his flag to signal to the timer to stop the clock. The team that has the lowest time wins the event.
Contestants compete for the fastest time while guiding their horse through a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels. A five-second penalty is added if a barrel is knocked over. The pattern may be started on either the left or right.
Breakaway calf roping
Another timed event. The roper is mounted and has one end of her rope tied to the saddle horn by a piece of string. When the calf is released from the chute, the roper and horse give chase. When the time is right the roper will lasso or rope the calf’s head. As the calf pulls away the rope grows taut and the string will break away from the saddle horn.
Tie Down calf roping
Similar to breakway in that the mounted rider chases the calf. But after catching the calf the rider dismounts from his/her saddle and races toward the calf, meanwhile the horse is keeping the rope taut. The roper then throws the calf to the ground and then ties three legs together using a picking string. Fastest time wins.
Chute dogging is an offshoot of steer wrestling. Instead of jumping from the back of a horse the dogger and steer both begin in the bucking chute. There is a sixty second time limit, but is usually unnecessary. When the gate opens, the dogger must bring the steer out to a 10-foot line in front of the chute and then attempt to wrestle the steer to the ground. The contestant will turn the steer’s head up toward its’ shoulder and hopes the steer will fall on its side with all four feet pointing in the same direction as the head is turned. If the steer fall the other way, it is a “dog fall” and the struggle begins anew.
Bareback bronc riding
This event pits man against horse. The rider uses a “rigging” - specially designed to provide a handhold for the rider. The rigging is tied to the horse. The rider must begin with both of his or her feet extended forward over the horse’s shoulders on the first jump out of the chute. If both feet are not in place the rider is penalized for “marking out.” The contest between horse and man last eight very long seconds. Judges determine the final score for horse and man - combining the two for a total score.
Saddleback bronc riding
Same as bareback except the rider uses a saddle and a rein to hold on. In neither event can the rider touch the horse with the free hand. In both bronc events there are a pair of arena men that are there to try to “pick up” the successful rider by going alongside after the ride and allowing the bronc rider to get off the bronc without falling to the ground. Judges again determine final score.
The rider pits his/her skill in trying to ride a steer. It is another eight second timed event. The rider attempts to hold on by using a “bull rope” - a rope wound around the steer and the rider’s hand, no knots allowed. The rider then attempts to last the eight seconds by holding on to the rope and with a scissor lock with his legs around the steer. Riders who can spur receive higher scores from the judges.
This event is a crowd favorite. Sheep are brought in so the little fellers can have a crack at showing their rodeo skills. The child is placed on the back of the sheep clutching two hands full of wool. The sheep is let go and the one that rides the longest wins the contest.
Rodeos premiere event. Clowns are introduced in this competition. Yes, they are funny but they are there to protect the cowboy from being injured. You won’t find a more dedicated safety specialist anywhere. The bull and cowboy come out of the chute and there are eight very explosive seconds of fury and athleticism. The rider must hand on only using the “bull rope” and then makes a counter move to everything the bull does. Tough job and very tough men make up the sport of bull riding.
The Eggleston has become the favorite rodeo in Ellis County since its inception seven years ago after the death of David in a car-bicycle accident.
Friends and family got together to begin the memorial rodeo that has quickly grown into a fun family outing.
Jim Perry is a sports writer for the Daily Light. He can be reached at jim,firstname.lastname@example.org