While bull- and bronco-riding might be rodeo’s highlight events, another, lesser-known event may be the most dangerous of them all.
In steer wrestling, riders are tasked with riding their horse alongside a speeding steer and tackling it to the ground, usually in less than 10 seconds.
The riders need to jump off their horses and onto the steer, which is as hard as it sounds, Briggsdale senior Garrett Carroll said.
“I punctured my neck once jumping onto a steer,” he said. “Luckily, it didn’t go too far in.”
Steer wrestling, also known as bulldogging, was showcased over weekend during the Colorado State High School Rodeo finals at the Moffat County Fairgrounds.
Ten cowboys competed during five performances.
During the championship round Sunday, Carroll mistimed his leap and landed in front of the steer and had to scramble to avoid being trampled.
Despite the threat of injuries, Carroll said steer wrestling was still his favorite event
“When you are out there, you just don’t know what is going to happen,” he said. “It probably gives me the biggest thrill of all the events I do.”
Avondale junior Tylor Bond, who was Colorado’s No. 1 steer wrestler in 2009 and 2010, said when he first saw his friends bulldogging, he wanted to give it a go.
“I borrowed one of my friend’s horses and just went out there,” he said. “It was one of the most inspiring runs of my life.”
Bond said it takes a lot of work, and after he wrestled his first steer, he had his friends help him get better.
Despite the hooves, horns and speed, the biggest risk for Bond is in his head, he said.
“It is mostly a mind event,” he said. “You just can’t let it get dangerous in your mind, and you will be fine.”
If newcomers need help, there are places that can teach them the basics.
La Junta senior Shay Carroll, last year’s all-around cowboy, said he started steer wrestling to help himself for all-around points.
To improve his wrestling skills, Shay went to Jace Honey’s Rodeo School in La Junta.
“If I had to stress anything to a new kid coming in,” Shay said, “it would be to go to that school.
“They help you so you won’t get seriously injured.”
Gunnison senior Tab Hildreth, who took second in the event, also went to the school when he was learning.
But, learning and doing are completely different, Hildreth said.
“All of us participating have to stay aggressive,” Hildreth said. “It’s very intense out there and we have to have our game plan ready.”