Rodeo Austin

Rodeo Austin

My dad was visiting this weekend, so while I didn’t spend much time at the barn riding (although he did come meet Simon) there was one very horsey activity we went to – Rodeo Austin.  Every March, hipsters get excited for South by Southwest and horse loving Austinites get excited for Rodeo Austin.

My experience with rodeo in North Carolina is slim.  I went to a rodeo at the Raleigh fairgrounds once, and remember it had about 5 barrel racers and a few bull riders.  There may have been some roping, but nothing intense and it certainly wasn’t pro rodeo.

In Austin, the rodeo is quite the event.  It lasts a solid two+ weeks and is accompanied by a stock show, carnival, horse/dog performances and a concert every night after the rodeo.  The first time I went I was overwhelmed with how intense (and campy) it was.  The indoor arena is transformed with lazers, spotlights, a jumbo tron and lots and lots of cowboys drinking beer.

Yesterday with my Dad we went to see the rodeo and the Charlie Daniels Band (devil went down to georgia!) but the format is pretty much the same year after year.

Rodeo Austin American Flag

They start off with a prayer and a dark house where a horse and rider bring in the American Flag for the national anthem, and then do a gallop around the arena with the flag.  The cowboys all take off their hats, stop drinking their beer, and bow their heads.

Rodeo Austin Bareback Bronc Riding

The first actual event is bareback bronc riding. It’s fast paced to get the rodeo started, but people usually stay on for the 8 seconds.  If cowboys had a problem yesterday, it was because they didn’t have their feet in a certain position on the first jump and got disqualified for the foul.  My favorite part is watching the outriders catch the broncs afterward.

Rodeo Austin Steer Wrestling

Steer wrestling is intense.  If you’re going to leap off your galloping horse to then flip over a steer with your bare hands, you better be tough.  Most of the guys get up limping in some way shape or form as they walk back to their horse.  Yesterday, the announcer picked out one cowboy and said that he was going to Dallas after the rodeo to get scope surgery done on his “busted up knee”, and that he was a diabetic who needed an insulin pump.  They said that he took the pump out for rodeos, and the announcer said “Kids, let this be a lesson for you that obstacles can be overcome.”  I took the message more as a “Kids, don’t try this at home.  Insulin pumps are best when used and if the doctor says you need surgery please don’t jump off a horse onto a cow.”

Rodeo Austin Mutton Busting

Speaking of kids, there’s an event specially for them called Mutton Bustin’.  This is where you take a 5 – 7 year old boy or girl, throw them on a sheep and give them a score for how long they can hang on.  At least there are helmets and body protectors involved, and even though I would probably never let my child do this – all the kids seemed really happy and the event is pretty cute.  No tears, no injuries (thankfully!).

Rodeo Austin Team Roping

Rodeo Austin Team Roping

Team roping isn’t as dramatic as steer wrestling or calf roping, but there’s a lot of skill involved.  Mostly, I just enjoy watching the roping horses.

Rodeo Austin Saddle Bronc Riding

Rodeo Austin Saddle Bronc Riding

Saddle bronc riding is my favorite event.  The horses are dynamic (do you ever wonder how they could jump if they can buck that high and well?) and the cowboys that stay on have a lot more style than just flopping around like they tend to do on bulls or bareback broncs.  Whenever I watch this, I wonder how I would do… and then I remember I’m a chicken and I hate riding buckers and I immediately throw out my cowgirl bronc dreams.

Rodeo Austin Calf Roping

Rodeo Austin Calf Roping

Calf roping is the one event where I feel really sorry for the calf.  Sure, they get up unhurt and trot away just fine but the dramatic jolt at hitting the taunt rope kind of bothers me.  Instead, I concentrate on the horses – because these horses are amazing.  As soon as the rope hits the cow they sit in the dirt and back up to help the cowboy.  Their ears are forward, and they clearly love their jobs.  For me, it’s exciting to watch their anticipation, execution and then relaxation (and pats from the cowboy) after a job well done.

Rodeo Austin Barrel Racing

Rodeo Austin Barrel Racing

Barrel racing is another fun event, and one that I have a lot of respect for.  Gaming riders are hard core, and it’s something I’m not good at at all.  Last night, they showed a video from a previous night where a rider almost knocked two barrels but used her hand to set them back right twice before galloping off.  That’s incredible.

Rodeo Austin Bull Riding

Rodeo Austin Bull Riding

Then there is the bull riding.  To be honest, I can’t get into bull riding at all.  Yeah they are flamboyant and dangerous but eh… I just feel like it’s a really stupid event.  What kind of cowboy was sitting around the ranch bored one day and said, “Hey – I really think that bull wants me to ride it.  Yes, that’s an excellent idea.”  Enough said.

Rodeo Austin

They always end the rodeo with a youth barrel racer driving around the broncs in the ring in a big group.  The announcer gives a big, cheesy spiel about how this is the foundation of the rodeo and an icon of our past in the American west and how mustangs built this country (even those these horses aren’t mustangs at all) yadda yadda yadda blah blah blah.

The rodeo is cheesy in bits, intense in others, but overall a lot of fun.  These pictures are all from the first year I went where I had better seats, but I’m going again on Wednesday to see the Alabama Shakes and may be sitting closer – so if I get any new good shots I’ll be sure to share them on the blog!  Are rodeos a big deal where you live?


16 thoughts on “Rodeo Austin

  1. I don’t know that I’ve ever been to a full-fledged rodeo. There’s a local barn that holds fun show and semi-serious barrel races all the time, and I’ve been there (to watch) a few times. I’d love to go to a real rodeo, though, and see all the events. I think its awesome. My sister-in-law owns a bull in the PBR, so occasionally we’ll get tickets to go see him buck, and that is an amazing event! I’m like you and don’t see the point in bull riding, but it is neat to watch (and fun to photograph, too!).

    I think it would be cool to compete in some of the events, but I’m not tough enough for most of them! My cousin’s husband barrel races, and he let me try out one of his horses one day. It was thrilling, but NOT for me! My ex boyfriend rides cutting horses, and that was something I could get into! I used to love doing that.

    1. I’m not tough enough for them either. It’s funny though, you’d think there’d be more of a rodeo presence in NC but from what I gather it’s more of a western/midwest thing.

  2. I used to go to a rodeo when I was little and lived in FL. Haven’t been since then though. Glad you got some family time! I miss mine so much and am jealous.

  3. I’ve lived in Austin for a gazillion years and STILL haven’t been to the rodeo. How sad is that!

    We have some friends who do steer wrestling, and man, that makes eventing look like child’s play. Although they SWEAR that we’re the crazy ones, lol!

    1. Go to the rodeo! It’s fun! There are some good acts this year too. If I wasn’t already going twice, I’d go see Three Dog Night or Sara Evans haha.

  4. Ah Rodeo is fun! The town we live in is BIG on rodeo and by bestie was actually the rodeo queen one year so I have ran flags in a few grand entries… it’s a fun atmosphere 🙂

  5. Hi Lauren, nice to meet you. Thank you for stopping by my blog. I really enjoyed your “hug your horses” post – that’s exactly how I feel about horses. They should all be treasured. Ours are family.
    Do you have a follow button on your blog? Can’t find it.

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