Rodeo animals at Stampede cared for by team of long-time rodeo stock professionals
This year, a record number of rodeo contestants registered for the rodeo events at the Greeley Stampede. Herman said the event has never drawn more than 700 competitors, but this year, it brought in 744.
Every morning during the Greeley Stampede, Bennie Beutler and his crew wake up early to feed the more than 500 animals they brought to the event. None of the men eat until all the animals have eaten.
Throughout the day, the rodeo animals, such as bulls, bucking broncos and roping steers get water and hay. They’re let loose in the arena to run for a few minutes. Like any other elite athlete, it’s about diet and exercise for these animals, Beutler said. And for the men who take care of them, it’s all about experience.
Beutler is the third generation in the stock contracting business, which means he provides the animals for rodeos. His son and business partner, Rhett, is the fourth generation. Beutler & Son Rodeo Co. of Elk City, Okla., has provided the rodeo stock for the Greeley Stampede since 1982.
With stocky bulls pacing in their pens and crewmen adjusting pens and hay, the stockyards at the Stampede are a dusty, hectic place. Rhett laughs when he says most of the time things are business as usual at the Stampede, but no day is the same. Some days, a horse might jump a fence, a bull will push over a loose gate or an intoxicated concertgoer will wander into a livestock pen.
“It’s very spontaneous,” Rhett said. “It makes it fun and keeps you on your toes.”
Beutler’s team brought more than 120 bucking horses and about 75 bucking bulls to the Stampede, along with 200 bulldogging steers and about 60 roping calves.
Among these are some of the top rodeo animals in the world, such as Four Aces, a saddle bronc horse that has been to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo five years in a row. He has to be kept separate from most other horses because he’s so mean, Beutler said. A bull or horse from Beutler & Son Rodeo Co. has won an award for bull or horse of the year at least once every decade since the ‘50s, a feat that’s hard to accomplish, Beutler said.
The animals that enter the bucking chutes are the result of careful breeding and raising for the Beutlers. As Beutler puts it, it’s all about putting together the right genetics to make an animal that’s born to buck. Because bucking is the name of the game, the wilder a horse or a bull is, the better.
“If it was people, a lot of them would be in the penitentiary,” Beutler said with a throaty laugh.
Raising livestock is about getting to know the little details of the animals like that, Rhett said. He tries not to play favorites with the animals, though he admitted with a grin there are clearly some that are better to work with than others. Running stock is a little like being a parent that way, he said. You just love all the animals equally, load them up in the school bus — as he calls the livestock trailer — and send them off to do their jobs.
When they do well, Rhett said he feels the same surge of pride a parent would.
“It’s always fun to look at the program and see the match-ups with the really good guys on the really good animals,” he said. “It’s always fun to see when the horse bucks them off or a bull bucks them off or they’re a high-point ride.”
It’s that kind of connection to the animals that both Rhett and his father refer to when it comes to defending their business against criticism. Beutler said some people think rodeo contractors mistreat their animals, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. His livelihood is dependent on the animals and their wellbeing.
“(They’re) a big investment. We’re not going to mistreat them,” he said.
The better stock the Stampede brings in, the better it is for the rodeo athletes and the rodeo itself, said James Herman, rodeo chairman for the Stampede. When athletes see certain stock contractors and animals’ names on the list for a rodeo, it helps them decide whether to attend that event or a different one.
During the Fourth of July weekend, or Cowboy Christmas as it’s called, when more rodeo money is up for grabs across the country than any other time of year, it’s important to have every advantage possible.
Beutler & Sons Rodeo Co. gives the Stampede that advantage, Herman said.
“It makes us one of the best rodeos in the country,” Herman said. “(Rodeo athletes) know if they’re going to get on one of these horses, they’ve got a shot to win.” ❖
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