Roped into it

Love of rodeo passed from generation

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Denton and Dusty Taylor like to talk about taking their children to compete in the Little Britches Rodeos. Denton and Dusty are 7 and 9 years old, respectively.

"The rodeo is what we do," their mother, Pam Taylor, said. "It's a natural step for them because it's an environment they grew up in."

Pam grew up learning to ride and rope in the Little Britches Rodeos. Today, she catches up with friends from those days when she and her family travel to a Little Britches Rodeo.

"My kids rodeo with the kids of people I rodeo with," she said. "The rodeo stays alive because parents pass on the love to their children."

Pass it on

Rodeo is more than a sport that a child can pick up by playing it with the neighborhood children. It takes investment and experience from an outside source, Pam said. Most of the time, that source is the parents.

"My boys play hockey, but they have a coach for that. In rodeo, you usually can't just go out and find a coach if you want to do it," Pam said. "You rarely see a kid (at a rodeo) without a parent who has helped coach along the way. If there is a kid without a parent, usually it's because they have a single parent who has to stay home to work or something like that."

Therefore, for the rodeo to continue from year to year, it's dependent on parents leaving a legacy.

"We have lots of third generation or more families out here this weekend," Joan Fleming said. "Rodeo survives because it's passed down."

You can't talk rodeo for more than a couple of minutes before someone mentions how it is a traveling community, Joan Fleming said.

"(But) parents are the foundation of that community. We traveled in 11 of 12 months this year, taking our kids to rodeos," she said.

And the Fleming children -- Eric, who will be a sophomore in high school in the fall, and Sarah, who will rodeo in the fall in her freshman year at Laramie County Community College -- are old enough to drive themselves to a rodeo if they really wanted to.

"The parents go along to also help with the rodeos," Joan Fleming said. "We have dozens of volunteers out here today who are parents."

Paula and Glenn Duzik were helping with the Little Britches Rodeo and watching their daughters, Mattie Jo, 7, and Taylor, 10, compete.

"We both grew up around horses," Paula said. "It's time-consuming and expensive, but it's a great family-friendly opportunity."

Pam Taylor sees the rodeo as time and money well-spent.

"When we get home Sunday, they're already asking where we go next," she said. "Their excitement is exciting for me."

A rare exception

Eric and Keri Hamilton didn't grow up around rodeos, but when they started Big Rack Outfitters, it put their children around horses on a regular basis.

"Our kids grew up around horses, and they naturally wanted to compete," Eric said. "We learned from the rodeo community around us how to teach them."

Eric and Keri have learned right along with their children, Matthew, 9, Alex Marie, 7, and soon, Halle, 2.

"Having a chance to compete as such an early age has been awesome for them," Eric said. "We're different because we didn't rodeo before, but we had horses around as part of our business."

Rodeo creates early love

Children who grow up on ranches or farms are bound to know horses. But the rodeos for youngsters allow a unique experience.

"There's no challenge to ride at home," Pam Taylor said. "The rodeo weekends are what they look forward to doing."

Eric Hamilton said when his children started to ride horses, they wanted to compete.

Little Britches Rodeo organizers recognized the need for youths to have a chance to imitate their cowboy and cowgirl heroes in competition. The Little Britches Rodeo, which started 54 years ago, is the oldest junior rodeo association in the country. The Moffat County Little Britches Rodeo is one of the largest attended in the state.

There are many families in the area passing the love of the rodeo on to their children.

"We enjoy it just as much as the kids do," said Paula Duzik, who was surrounded by family members watching on Saturday. "We get to travel with an extended family every weekend. It's a lot of fun to be a part of."

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