This past Saturday I had the pleasure of attending the 69th Annual Franklin Rodeo in Franklin, Tennessee. I am a big rodeo fan, and this was a really good one. It has been put on by the Franklin Rotary Club since 1949 and is one of the largest rodeos east of the Mississippi River. The proceeds from the rodeo went to a whole list of worthy causes, including the Boys and Girls Club, the Williamson Hospital Breast Health Center and the Puerto Rico Libraries Fund. With over 18,000 people attending over the three day run, they were able to donate a lot of money to these great causes. It was also a really good time. For those of you who have never been to a rodeo before, I thought I'd write a quick post to tell you about some of the events. Unfortunately for me, they (understandably) didn't allow tripods, and with low lighting and everything happening at high speeds, my photos didn't come out great - but you will get the meaning at least.
There are two types of horse riding in the rodeo: Bareback and Saddle Bronc Riding. They are fairly similar events where one allows the use of a saddle and the other does not. First, the horse is led into the "chute", basically a very narrow pen where it can't move around much. The rider then climbs in from the top and takes his seat. In both events, you are only allowed to hold on with one hand, so they get a good grip. Then, they have to "mark out" their horse, meaning both of their feet have to be up above the horse's shoulders when it leaves the chute. Once they are in position, they nod their head and the chute is open. In order to receive a score, they must stay on for 8 seconds. If they can hold on that long, their score will be out of 100, with 50 points for the horse and how hard it bucked, and 50 points for the rider and how well they rode. These are both really exciting events and both were great at the Franklin Rodeo.
Steer Wrestling is also an exciting event where cowboys will ride their horses after a steer and then jump from their horse's back and wrestle the steer to the ground. This is a timed event where the time stops when all four of the steer's legs are pointed up.
There were two roping events at the Franklin Rodeo: Tie-Down Roping and Team Roping. In Tie-Down Roping, there is only one rider, and his goal is to chase down a calf and lasso it around the neck. Then he has to come off of his horse and tie the calf's legs together. Once he has done this, the timer is stopped, but if the calf gets out of the tie, the rider receives no score. In Team Roping, two riders work together to lasso a calf. The first will lasso the head and then the second, in what always seems like an act of magic to me, must lasso one of the calf's back legs. Once both lassos are secured, the timer is stopped. These two events really show off the amazing roping skills of the riders. In the few times I've used a lasso in my life it was hard enough to rope a stationary object while standing still, and these guys are roping moving targets from a galloping horse. It is great to see.
After these events, the Franklin Rodeo had an intermission for some trick-riding by a lady who used to ride for the Dixie Stampede. She was really an amazing rider and did all kinds of stunt riding and tricks, most of which involved standing on her horses' backs. Then came the "Mutton Busting", a hilarious event in which little kids tried to ride sheep. One kid held on for like 3 seconds which really impressed me. The last "just for fun" event was the Calf Scramble. The Calf Scramble brings all the under-12 kids out into the arena and then releases 3 calves with ribbons attached to their tales. Once the calves are loose, a hundred screaming kids chase them around the arena trying to get the ribbon. It really is hilarious to watch.
The last two events of the rodeo are probably my two favorites: Barrel Racing and Bull Riding. In Barrel Racing, there are three barrels set up: one on each side of the arena and one at the far end. The goal is to ride as quickly as possible around all three and then back to the starting point without knocking the barrels over. This is a really fast riding event and displays some amazing riding skills and magnificent horses. At Franklin, one of the competitors was six years old and she did really well for her age.
Bull Riding is always the final event at the rodeo, and it is really something exciting to see. It is so exciting, in fact, that there is a whole different sport devoted just to Professional Bull Riding. The Bull Riding is similar to the horse riding events where the cowboy drops in on the bull when they are in the chute. They are not required to mark out their bull, but must use only one hand to hold on. Bull Riding is very intense and more than a little scary to watch. These are massive and powerful animals and the riders have to be incredibly powerful and maybe a little bit crazy to ride them. It is always a great event and always worth staying around for.
Through the whole rodeo, there are plenty of people around to help keep things as safe as they can. There are also Rodeo Clowns who, while there to entertain the crowd, are also there to distract the animals' attention away from the riders after they hit the ground.
If you have never seen the rodeo, you really should go check one out. They are really fun events where you get to see real cowboy skills put into practice in competition. The "animal athletes" are always well taken care of, as the rodeo participants are people who have grown up their whole lives caring for animals. While some of the events may look like the animals get hurt, I have seen dozens of cowboys leave the rodeo in the back of an ambulance, but never a single animal get injured. Rodeo season is upon us, and if one is coming to your area, it really is a fun night out. HERE is the 2018 Professional Rodeo Schedule, and HERE is the 2018 Professional Bull Riding Schedule. Thanks to the Franklin Rotary Club for welcoming me to their annual rodeo, and for all the good they do with the proceeds.