Her first rodeo

June 18 2019

Have you ever been to a real live rodeo?

Where the cowboys do roping, and the cowgirls do barrel racing and the crowds roar with anticipation to see how long someone will stay on the bull?

The Houston Livestock show and Rodeo happens here every year. It is packed with visitors who come to see the beautiful animals who have been lovingly cared for and who hope to win the grand prize.

They enjoy the fair atmosphere and the singing talent that happens at the end of the show but for me personally, I really enjoy watching the rodeo. Perhaps it is because I am an athlete and I love seeing what dedication, skill and perseverance at a sport can do for the participants who with good nature, compete for the winnings. These rodeo participants are athletes as well...guys and girls, moms and dads who spend their lives on ranches or farms, herding the cattle and roping the strays, doing a job that is remote, but requires skill athleticism and quick reactions.

These athletes become bonded with their horse because they are a team. They must be able to tell the horse which way to go and the horse must be able to sense danger, respond immediately and provide speed, agility and athleticism when needed, just like the rider. Each could not do the job necessary without the other. The fact that only one is making the decisions does not diminish the role of the other. One CHOOSES to be in the rodeo, but the other has been trained to be in the rodeo. The bond that develops between horses and riders is rivaled by none and the riders depend on their own specific horses to get the job done. I love watching this played out in the rodeo. Watching the horses, the paints, the mustangs and the appaloosas gallop across the arena, with ropes flying as the cowboys are in full pursuit of the cattle, up in the stirrups, hat firmly planted on their heads, leaning towards the target as if their whole life depends upon it. In the life of a cowboy, they actually DO put their lives at risk for the protection of the herd because roping and bareback riding are dangerous activities.

Those who win, have earned the win...sometimes at great personal cost.

I wondered as I thought about the rodeo, what would happen if some horse who "it was their first rodeo" so to speak, who had never worked cattle and had never had a rider, or some rider who had never even been on a ranch, participated in the Houston livestock show and rodeo and won?? What if this novice team beat every experienced rider by a furlong!!! That would be of lasting memory for sure, a worthy event to see or witness.

What if the way that the rider beat everyone else was because the horse was so swift, so responsive, so bonded to its rider, that it was unquestioningly devoted, loyal, obedient? Wouldn’t that be so beautiful to see?

I wondered, would there be some who would say the rodeo suddenly was less valid because those with more skill were spanked this time and lost instead of winning? I doubt it. Would the rodeo be any less difficult or any less meaningful? I doubt it. The athleticism required, and the time required to create that type of bond would be an inspiration to everyone, in my opinion..not something to be hidden or apologized for. What I look for when I look for greatness, is not just the individual working alone that brings talent to the rodeo, I look for the teamwork, that supercedes the ordinary, the dedication to perfection even when no one is watching, the tolerance of loneliness out on the range in desolate dry desert ranges, and the ability to deal with the pain from falling or getting injured on the job. That is the life of a cowboy and horse must not only handle but rise above.

After a such a win at the rodeo, I doubt if the rider of such a horse would take away the horses winnings and say that because the horse was a novice, or prevent it from getting recognition for the hard work it had provided to its rider. I doubt if the Houston Livestock show and Rodeo would be embarrassed, pretend it never happened or fail to document and celebrate the novice team. That is just not what they would do here in America.

And in the same breath I doubt if the rider would be denied the winnings either. Those gifts of athleticism, dedication and skill, even coming from a rank novice are rewarded, not punished, not diminished. And the horses are loved and cared for and have provided a wonderful service to the rider who uses the skills and the winnings to help support their families and future cowboy children. It is a beautiful thing to understand and to support...even though not very many people today have the career of riding horses or herding cattle for a living. It is dusty, dirty, but beautiful world, and full of rippling muscles and action, bravery and precision, all in one day on the ranch or if you are lucky, at the rodeo.

One of the last event at the rodeo is always the calf scramble...the youth of the area are allowed to try to catch a baby calf and get it back into the ring and in doing so, they win the calf for a year to care for and enter it the following year in the livestock show. The kids do indeed scramble to go chase the calves, and the entertainment comes when they try to get the calf back into the circle, pulling them by the halter that they bring. There was never more doubt to the quote that "you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make them drink" because with these baby cattle, who are quite young and innocent of the rodeo, THEY DO NOT WANT TO BE LED ANYWHERE. they resist with their entire body weight. The teenagers pull and pull but so do the calves…and we know who generally has more weight when it comes to stubbornness. It requires great patience and most times a different strategy than just brute force pulling, to get the baby into the ring. I applaud the ingenuity of the participants who creatively get the babies to run towards the prize, who understand the innocence of the baby and help it avoid showing how stubborn and effective at resisting moving a baby calf can be.

In the same way, fitness is like a daily rodeo of sorts...a person can sit on the grandstands and watch or read all about how to get in shape and how exciting and rewarding it can be or they can climb in the saddle. It takes a lot of work to understand how to speak to a horse so it feels like it is part of a team, but I am willing to bet it is always worth it...just like it takes practice to ”speak to” or fine tune and tone your own body, but the results can be astounding. If your "body" is your horse, so to speak, it MAKES SENSE to get that body on the same team with you. Houston Personal trainer Melissa can help you do this….You do not want injuries or health problems that arise from inactivity, poor nutrition or neglect for your “horse” or yourself. A valued horse gets the best attention it could want, and that makes for a winning team.

I hope if you ever get to Houston, if you do not live here, you get a chance to put on some real western boots, grab a hat, and step inside the extremely athletic world of the cowboy and his horse. You will remember it forever…and you might even learn something about life, love, and the true sport of the game.