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“So do you ride bulls?” Struggles of a Rodeo Athlete

By: Samantha Smith

People always ask me, “What it’s like to college rodeo? How do you prepare? Does the school supply your horses or do you have your own? Is rodeo expensive?”

Truth is, though it is the most decorated sports team at Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU), not many people even know we have a rodeo team. Because of this, I’ve taken it upon myself to help educate those who honestly have no idea (shoutout to the kid that didn’t believe I was a cowgirl because I, “didn’t look the part,” since I didn’t wear boots and spurs to class).

Because I’m feeling rather adventurous, we are going to play a little bit of true or false today! Common cowgirl/boy stereotypes debunked.

1. “All rodeo people listen to country music”

False. Despite popular belief, not all cowgirls and cowboys listen to country music 24/7. In fact, I’m not sure when the last time was that I hopped in someone’s pickup to go to a rodeo and they had a country radio station playing. If I had to take a guess, the most common music played heading from one rodeo to the next amongst my group of friends would have to be pop, followed by hip-hop/R&B. While trying to find some research on this topic, I came across a blog by Rodeo Paige posted on Kimes Ranch’s website. Click on this link to read her opinion on this topic. Personally, I have a large variety of XM radio channels I listen to, ranging from 80’s on 8 to “The Heat.”

2. “The school provides horses for each rodeo team member” 

False again. Of all the questions I receive about college rodeo, I think this one may be the most common. To put it quite simply, no, the school does not buy us horses, nor does the school pay to feed the horses we have. Rodeo is by no means a cheap sport to get involved with. Plus, rodeo athletes have to not only take care of themselves, but also their four-legged members as well. This takes not only time, but money too which can often mean we are relying on a paycheck at the rodeo to pay for expenses the next week. Most of us rodeo team members rode the same horses we ride now in high school, and coaches often will recruit people based on the horses they ride, or what we like to refer to as “horsepower.”

3. “Rodeo kids always wear their belt buckles and cowboy boots to class” 

False. This one can get a little bit tricky depending on who you talk to. Yes, there are some rodeo kids who constantly wear their boots, spurs, buckles, hats, starched jeans and shirts. But there are also plenty of us who do not. Because the statement uses the word “always,” this one will be marked down as a misconception with the others for now. At ENMU, there are actually a lot of kids who fall under this stereotype without even being rodeo competitors, it’s just the norm around here to look “punchy” I guess. Personally, and I think every girl on the rodeo team will agree with this as well as several of the boys, I never wear my “rodeo attire” to class. There are a couple of boys on the team however that do wear all of the above to class AND haul their horse trailers into town to make sure everyone knows they’re cowboys (I’m talking about you Dustyn and Bryce). Moral of the story, just because I don’t spur my chair down for 90 points in class doesn’t mean I’m not a competitor in the rodeo arena.

4. “Rodeo kids are all AG Business majors” 

False again! I think I’m starting to sense a trend here, no? Just like any other sports team, not all of our members are earning the same degree. Another fun fact, rodeo is unique because it doesn’t require us athletes to practice as a team. Each individual competes on their own, with the exception of team roping, and at the end of the weekend individual points are totaled, resulting in the team points. Because we don’t have to practice together, we also have several students who are all online with their studies. Tawny Barry is one of our best women’s team competitors and studies business online, meaning she can live wherever she pleases but still compete for and earn a degree from ENMU. Many rodeo kids do decide to study agriculture because it allows them to learn more about what we already do, however many of us choose degrees in other areas.

5. “Cowgirls/boys aren’t real athletes” OR “Rodeo isn’t a sport”

False, false, false. One of my biggest pet peeves has always been the downplay of rodeo as a sport. Just like many other athletes at this school, we put in our time and work hard to succeed in the rodeo arena. When other sports try to knock us down, it is disheartening and simply put, rude. According to all three definitions of a sport given by topendsports.com, rodeo does fall under that category. As for those who think we aren’t athletes, try flanking a calf and tying him down. You can do that? Great, now jump on someone’s barrel racing horse and see if you can make it around all three barrels in record time. Think you can do that too? Time to hit the rough stock end of the arena and jump on a bull because surely that doesn’t require any athleticism at all. If this mini rant wasn’t enough for you, leave a comment and we can come back to this another day.

6. “College rodeo is the experience of a lifetime that you’ll never forget” 

True! I always like to leave things on a good note and this seemed to be the only way I was going to get some sleep after #5 *insert eye roll here. On a more serious note, college rodeo has been one of the best things I have ever experienced. Coming all the way from Canada to New Mexico to rodeo for a university definitely wasn’t a small decision to make, but I wouldn’t go back and change it for the world. I have made great friends that I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life, and the experience here has actually made me look into getting dual-citizenship and moving down here permanently after school. While trying to find a link of interest for this sub-heading I came across a NY Times article about college rodeo that warmed my heart. Click the hyperlink above and see if it has the same feeling for you!