What started out as a ranch rodeo with pick-up trucks outlining a circle, has evolved into one of Moffat County's longest rodeo traditions and one that has been sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association and the Colorado Professional Rodeo Association.
The annual Ride-n-Tie Rodeo will celebrate its 56th year in Moffat County at 7 p.m. July 18 and 19 at the Moffat County Fairgrounds.
The rodeo, which is organized solely by community volunteers, is made possible through funding and donations from local businesses and individuals.
"Anyone can organize the event and do it," said committee member Heather Martin. "But the most challenging part of hosting the rodeo is find the funding year after year. Businesses get hit by every group that wants something and there is only so much that you can give to. But being an agricultural community, this is our heritage."
Martin views this event as a true family tradition.
"A lot of kids have no idea what a rodeo is and it's amazing to see the kids and people come out just to look at the bulls and the calves, watch people team rope and just to see the cowboys," she said. "It's something you'd hate to see die."
This year's rodeo will feature the traditional nine rodeo events: bareback riding, calf roping, breakaway roping, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, mixed team roping, open team roping, ladies barrel racing and bull riding. Adding to the festivities will be "Mutton Bustin,'" which is an event that allows children to ride sheep as if they were riding a bull, and the Calf Scramble in which little ones race to grab the ribbon from a calf's tail in order to win a prize.
"These events give kids a chance to participate if they don't have livestock and can't do other events," Martin said. "Unfortunately, we limited the kids events because of financial constraints. We wanted to do the greased pig contest, but next year's committee might be able to make that happen."
The rodeo is about more than just spectators, though. Hundreds of cowboys and cowgirls from around the state depend on a good Ride-N-Tie committee to arrange quality livestock that allows these professionals to compete at the level to which they are accustomed.
"In the old days, the rodeo stock was your Joe Blow bringing a horse in that he wanted broke," Martin said. "Now there are stock contractors who are breeding their animals strictly for performance. Cowboys and cowgirls want to know who the stock contractors are because they know who is good and who isn't. The payoff is good enough now days that some people travel these circuits to make their living."
The key to quality stock is to follow family lines, keep good records and not be afraid to sell an animal if it won't buck.
"We buy a lot of old bucking horse mares who were crippled or old and lay the foundation from there," said Glenn Southwick, owner of the Southwick Rodeo Company. "We keep them matched up with the right studs, keep good records and aren't afraid to change things if we need to. We sell the ones that don't make the grade, trace them back to their moms, sell the moms, and move on from there."
Southwick acknowledges that there aren't a lot of differences between raising regular riding horses and bucking stock, other than
"We don't handle our stock nearly as much as you would a riding horse," he said.
"They are born out and run with their mothers until they are two. You don't want them rough and nasty, but you sure don't want them dog gentle."
Overall, Southwick said he believes that making sure young animals are not "over bucked" when they are young and that they are fed well will ensure animals that grow up healthy.
When it boils down to which animals make the cut and travel the rodeo circuit, heart and life make the difference.
"The good animals have some action, have some fight and have some life in them," he said. "You might have some that buck good enough, but you can tell that it is weak-hearted. Those are the ones you cut."
Southwick sells some of his weaker animals to high school rodeo teams that get many years worth of use out of an animal with less fight, but the good professional rodeo cowboys follow the good stock.
"Even a good hand can't place riding junk," he said. "If you put out good stock, the chances are that the good cowboys will end up winning every time. Weak cowboys follow weak stock, good cowboys follow good stock."
Southwick Rodeo Inc. and Rawhide Rodeo was started in 1985 and since then has grown to supply and produce stock for more than 40 rodeos, including Cheyenne Frontier Days, Denver Stock Show and the Black Hills Stock Show.
Good stock and great cowboys wouldn't be complete without the color and humor of a professional rodeo clown.
Local spectators can expect lots of local talent as well as riders from bordering states.
The CPRA is co-sanctioned with bordering states so that those cowboys and cowgirls can enter shows that are nearby. Because this is a sanctioned event, local participants who are not CPRA members can win prize money, but cannot go on to compete in the finals or accrue points toward end-of-year standings.
"I encourage spectators and participants to notice the businesses that make this possible and thank them, because without their support, this event would not happen," she said.
For more information call Martin at (970) 824-4844.