With the onset of rodeo season comes the influx of cowboys and cowgirls from across the nation, with many traveling countless hours for a chance to outperform fellow competitors in Northwest Arkansas.
While rodeos across the state may differ in their style and size, the competitions featured at each event remain more or less the same. They fall into one of two categories: judged, also called "rough stock," events, or timed events.
Rodeo of the Ozarks
WHEN — Gates open at 6 p.m. June 26-29
WHERE — Parsons Stadium in Springdale
COST — $7-$38
INFO — 756-0464, rodeooftheozarks.org
BONUS — There will be a street dance at 8 p.m. June 22 and a parade at 3 p.m. June 29, both on Emma Avenue.
Judged events include bull riding, bareback and saddle bronc riding. With these events, the final score depends on both the rider and the animal.
At the North Franklin County Fair Rodeo, the International Professional Rodeo Association brings in official judges, says Sarah Halmes, president of the Rodeo Board. Two judges are responsible for each event, and Halmes says the animals are scored primarily on how difficult they are to ride. The riders' scores are based on their ability to ride for eight seconds while only holding on with one hand. The final score is derived from an average of the judges' scores, Halmes says.
Andrew Giangola, the head of public relations for Professional Bull Riders, an international bull riding organization, says judges evaluate riders' body control during the ride.
"While flailing about to seemingly defy gravity, and somehow managing to stay on for a jaw-dropping eight seconds, may look spectacular, that kind of 'how did he possibly stay on' ride won't get as high a score as the cowboy smoothly centered, in control the whole time and making it look like a walk in the park," Giangola says.
He says judges are also responsible for other duties, such as inspecting the bulls and equipment before the show and knowing and enforcing the rules.
The horses and bulls used in these events are bred to buck. A common misconception is the animals are mistreated, or these competitions are stressful for them. Giangola says the bulls are "treated like kings and are the true rock stars of the sport."
Judy Canant, secretary for the Arkansas Rodeo Association, says timed events, such as barrel racing, calf roping and steer racing, depend not only on a rider knowing what to do and when but also on a well-trained horse.
"One small mistake can be the difference between winning or no money at all," Canant says.
With calf roping and steer wrestling, the cattle are given a head start, Canant says. The contestant must then perform quickly, with penalties for not successfully roping a calf, or not giving it a proper head start, potentially adding time along the way. Once the calf has been securely roped, or the steer has been brought down, the clock will stop.
Barrel racing, typically a cowgirls' event, combines a horse's athleticism with a rider's horsemanship skills to navigate a pattern around barrels in the fastest time, without knocking any over. Five seconds are added for every barrel the rider knocks over, Canant says.
Gina Hampton and her husband own Hampton Pro Rodeo Company, a stock contractor business. She works as a rodeo secretary and is also a timer for rodeo events. As a former competitor herself, she says she loves barrel racing.
"I have an appreciation for what goes into making a great barrel horse, and then actually competing and winning with one," Hampton says.
Hampton says a good judge should be level-headed and prepared to make split-second calls. Officials receive training and are tested on their knowledge before they are allowed to actually judge, she says. It helps if the judges are former competitors; most of them have been around rodeos all their lives and have extensive knowledge, she says.
As for the cowboys and cowgirls competing in these events, Hampton says they must be determined. Competing in rodeos requires a lot of time and money, and it can be tough to lose after putting in so much effort.
"They shrug off defeat, and focus on what they have trained to do, and try again, and again," Hampton says. "Most are determined to succeed at all costs."
NAN What's Up on 06/16/2019
Print Headline: Ride 'Em, Cowboy!