Rocky Mountain Ranch Rodeo
Colorado Springs, Colo.
On July 3, there was a herd of Longhorn cattle running free in the middle of downtown Colorado Springs. The Longhorns, surrounded and driven by the cowboys (and cowgirls) of the Working Ranch Cowboys Association (WRCA), were the kickoff for the ranch rodeo to come on Saturday afternoon. The Norris-Penrose Event Center hosted the three-day Rocky Mountain Horse Expo, with the ranch rodeo as its centerpiece event.
Tucked up against the foothills of Pikes Peak, the arena is one of the favorite destinations of the contestants and fans alike. The natural beauty and available sightseeing brings in some of the best ranch teams in the West. This year 12 teams representing 18 different ranches traveled from five different states to participate. Ranch rodeo is different from traditional rodeo, it is real working ranch cowboys and events, designed to look like what is done on the ranch.
The Norris-Penrose crew did a great job to get the arena in shape after an early thunderstorm, and after the Grand entry, they started promptly at 5:30 with the Ranch Bronc Riding. The ranch rodeo bronc event allows the rider to use two hands if he chooses, called the “ride as ride can” rule. It is meant to be as close to real ranch style as possible.
Third place went to the Crutch Ranch out of Borger, Texas, with a 77-point ride. Second spot was claimed by the Four Three Land and Cattle and FX Bar Ranch from Nebraska and Wyoming, covering for 80-points. First place in the bronc event went to the Y6 Livestock team out of the Nebraska Sandhill country near Arthur, Neb., marking a great 81-point ride for the win.
The Ranch Branding and the Ranch Sorting events are two events that look most like what you might see on a real cattle ranching operation. In the Branding, the team must heel two calves from the herd and drag them to the fire to be branded (with chalk in this case) fastest time on two head wins. This year’s top brander was the Haythorn Land and Cattle Company from western Nebraska with a time of 43.81 seconds on their two calves.
The Ranch Sorting involves four mounted team members in the arena, with one member cutting five consecutively numbered yearlings from the herd and the other three doing herd hold back duty. This is a slow, deliberate event, as the cowboys are trying for a fast time but don’t want any stray cattle across the line. It’s very challenging and this year the best team was the S Ranch and Sunlight Ranch cowboys out of Montana. They claimed the title with a time of 1:16.
The next event was the Stray Gathering, an event much like real ranch work, and much like the real thing, it can get a little wild at times. Two yearlings are let into the arena and two pair of mounted cowboy’s head and heel it and lay him on his side. Once the yearling is down each team has to tie three legs and call time. They have three minutes to get it done – fastest time wins. The fastest time this year was turned in by the cowboys of the Sandhill Cattle Company out of Earth, Texas with a time of 1:26 for the win.
By the time the last sorting team left the arena, another thunderstorm started to move over the arena and when the Wild Cow Milking event started it began to pour. The milking event is hands down one of the fan favorites, and to make it even wilder – you just need to add mud. Thanks to Mother Nature, the mud was delivered just in time, and the arena turned into an ankle deep slop, with cows, horses and cowboys joining in.
With cows falling on cowboys, and cowboys falling on each other, the teams coaxed a few precious drops of milk into their longnecks, wiped the mud from their eyes and looked for the judge. The time stops when the cowboy delivers the bottle to the judge, if the judge finds milk they get a score. The top team in this years Wild Cow Milking was the Four Three Land and Cattle/FX Bar Ranch team turning in plenty of milk and a score of 34-seconds.
After the milking, the rain moved on and the Jackpot Trailer Loading event was ready to go – the same muddy arena was waiting for the teams to go to work. Roping one yearling, loading him in a half-top trailer and then loading two horses in the back of the trailer is done often out on the real ranch but putting a time clock makes it a little different. The mud played its part, and made the cowboy’s job miserable, but they all “cowboyed up” and pushed, pulled, tugged and shoved until they had the four-legged mud ball in the trailer.
By the time the cow is loaded, the horses are not always where you left them, so more time is used to find and load the horses. To finish the run, the cowboys must jump in the cab of the truck and close the doors. This year, the win in the Trailer Loading went to Colorado’s own Rush Creek Cattle and JOD Ranch out of Limon, Colo., with a time of 1:28.
In the end the cowboys, fans and families all had fun despite the rain. After the horses were put up and a preliminary cleanup was performed, the announcer was ready to hand out the prizes. The Top Hand award, voted on by the competitors, went to Hegan Lamb of the Crutch Ranch out of Texas, winning a beautiful western print and buckle. The Top Horse award, an award given by a separate judge that looks for the horse with the best quality in every event, went to “Four Lil Smart,” owned and ridden by Craig Haythorn of the Haythorn Land and Cattle Company. This was Haythorn’s fifth consecutive Top Horse win at Colorado Springs.
In the overall, the S Ranch and Sunlight Ranch placed third with a total of 29 points. The second spot was claimed by the La Junta, Colo., team of Broken Spear/San Jose ranches scoring 29.5 points.
Winner of this years Ride for the Brand Championship Ranch Rodeo is the Borger, Texas team of the Crutch Ranch. Mark and Jack Mitchell, Hegan Lamb, Casey Maxwell and Chad Smith marked 34 points for the check, the buckles and the all-important trip to Amarillo in November for the WRCA world Championships.
The Colorado Springs show is already on the schedule for next year, and the contestants are already making their plans, hopefully for a mud free event next year, but if not, nobody will care – they will still be here with or with out mud.
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