Earning Their Spurs

Bucking broncos, chasing the cans & ropers galore: 71st Annual Clifton Rodeo June 10-11 draws good crowd in spite of heat, offers good show

CLIFTON – Arising out of skills needed on the cattle drives, rodeos are nestled in the tradition of the West, with a certain dress code, honoring country, flag and Christian values. Even in this modern day and age, a rodeo revitalizes the spirit of the Old West, pitting man against beast, whether in mutton bustin’ for the youngsters or the timed bronco and bull riding. They are a blend of performance and contest – a sporting event that involves horses and other livestock, designed to test the skill and speed of the cowboys and cowgirls.

Rodeo events are divided into two basic categories: the rough stock events and the timed events. The American-style rodeo like the one put on in Clifton June 10-11 included the traditional events of tie-down roping, team roping, saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding and bull riding for the guys, barrel racing and breakaway roping for the gals. And if the cowboy hat stayed on, the ride was not fast and furious enough.

But the show started with the grand entry and the Silver Spurs Drill Team from Gatesville. They are a group of ladies who love to ride and perform on their horses. They work together training countless hours to put together choreographed, synchronized maneuvers to music. 

The 71st Annual Clifton Rodeo put on by Rocking M & Hat Brand rodeo was the first sanctioned rodeo in Clifton in several years.

“These days rodeo contestants are not only chasing money, they are chasing points,” Rodeo Organizing Board Member Weston Gloff said. “A rodeo cowboy has many rodeos to choose from each weekend, so we felt that having a sanctioned rodeo would help us bring quality and quantity in terms of contestants. If the contestant win money at our rodeo, it helps them make the UPRA and CPRA finals. In our part of the state, it is common for rodeos to be co-sanctioned. Contestants can earn points for each sanction, so that helps bring the best competitors to town.”

The United Professional Rodeo Association with Cinch standings had its finals during the State Fair of Texas in the historic Fair Park Coliseum Dallas, Oct. 18-22. The Cowboys Professional Rodeo Association has its finals Oct 14-16 in Angleton.

As the event organizer, the Clifton Chamber of Commerce was very pleased with the attendance. And the Clifton Chamber of Commerce is thankful for all who sponsored the rodeo.

“This year, the weather was very hot, and the bleachers were still pretty full,” Gloff said. “We are thankful for every single person that came to watch the rodeo. We feel as though the rodeo was a huge success both for the contestants and the spectators. We have received a lot of positive feedback. We look forward to making it even better next year.

“It takes a lot of help to put on a rodeo of this caliber, and it would not be possible without the support of our community.”

Rocking M and Hat Brand provided the personnel and the stock for the show and brought the elements together in a smooth running, exciting production. Besides the athletic entertainment, announcer Zane Parker and rodeo clown Coty Cooper kept the rodeo-loving crowd entertained between event set up. Other entertaining events for the audience were the mutton bustin’ of course, and the calf scrambles for the youth.

No offence to the hardworking cowgirls and cowboys, but the horses, broncs and bulls in the show are the true athletes of the events – they are toned, they are powerful and they are ready to rumble. And (cowboy) hats off to the pick-up men and helpers in the arena. In the rough stock events pick up men Shannon Rodell and Chad Gaston on their well-trained riding horses ridden were tasked with assisting fallen riders and helping successful riders get safely off the bucking animal.

After the mutton bustin’ for the youngest vacqueros, the evening started with bareback bronc riding. The rider is only allowed to hang onto a bucking horse with a type of surcingle called a "rigging." He has to hang on for at least eight grueling seconds. In Clifton, Kash Martin came first with a score of 81.0, winning $511.68. Martin is currently ranked first in the season’s standings; Tied for first with the same score and winnings was Jordan Brown. Payton Lackey came third with 79.0 score winning $255.84. Lackey is ranked fourth in season’s standings.

In rough stock riding like bull riding, saddle bronc riding and bareback riding, the cowboy is required to hold on to the rope, rein, or riggin’ with one hand, and keep his other hand free. All of these events are scored out of 100 total points – 50 for the contestant and 50 for the rough stock.

In bareback riding, the judges will look at the bareback rider’s spurring technique and the degree to which his toes remain turned out while he is spurring. For the bronc, the judges will take into consideration the bronc’s unique bucking style.

Roping competitions are based on the tasks of a working cowboy, who often had to capture calves and adult cattle for branding, medical treatment and other purposes. The cowboy must throw a type of rope with a loop, known as a lariat, riata or reata, or lasso, over the head of a calf or onto the horns and around the hind legs of adult cattle, and secure the animal in a fashion dictated by its size and age.

Breakaway roping is a form of calf roping where a very short lariat is used, tied lightly to the saddle horn with string and a flag. When the calf is roped about the neck, the horse stops, the flagged rope breaks free of the saddle, and the calf runs on without being thrown or tied. In most of the United States, this event is primarily for women of all ages and boys under 12.

Brooke Dunlap came first with a time of 2.56 seconds, winning $1025.41. Jordi Edens, ranked second in the season’s standings, came second with a 2.87 run, winning her $801.10. Payton Jessee came third with a 3.570 second run, winning $576.79.

The oldest of rodeo's timed events Calf roping – also called Tie-down roping – roping calves for branding, medical treatment, or other purposes. The cowboy ropes a running calf around the neck with a lariat, and his horse stops and sets back on the rope while the cowboy dismounts, runs to the calf, throws it to the ground and ties three feet together. A well-trained calf-roping horse will slowly back up while the cowboy ties the calf, to help keep the lariat snug.

In Clifton, Carsyn Sunvison came first, tying the calf in 8.44 seconds, winning $888.32. Sunvison is ranked 32nd in the season’s standings. Ranked sixth in the season’s standings, Shane Hanchey came second with 8.5 seconds, winning $694. The season’s number one ranked calf roper Tyler Calhoun settled for third place with 8.68 seconds, winning him $499.68.

Saddle Bronc Saddle bronc riding evolved breaking and training. Many cowboys claim riding saddle broncs is the toughest rodeo event to master because of the technical skills necessary for success. Every move the bronc rider makes must be synchronized with the movement of the horse. The cowboy's objective is a fluid ride, somewhat in contrast to the wilder and less-controlled rides of bareback riders. In saddle bronc riding, the judges will look at the saddle bronc rider’s control of the bronc, his spurring action, and if he’s able to keep his toes pointed outward. For the bronc, the judges will consider the bronc’s bucking ability and if the ride is smooth and rhythmic.

Jake Vance, who is ninth in the season’s standings, won in Clifton with a 78-point score, winning $660.80. Number one in the season’s standings, Treyson Antonick came second with a 77-point score, winning $396.48. Shawn Mentaberry took third with 62 points and $264.32 in winnings.

Team roping is also called "heading and heeling." It is the only rodeo event where men and women riders compete together. In Clifton this year though, there were only guys’ teams competing. One horse and rider, the "header," lassos a running steer's horns, while the other horse and rider, the "heeler," lassos the steer's two hind legs.

Tied for first place was Team Tyler Wade and Team Dustin Davis with 4.2 seconds. Both teams took home $1,666.80 in winnings. Team Jacob Beyer and Team Rylan Lipe tied for second place with a 5.38-second run winning them $1,250.10 per team. And tied for third were Teams Sam Miller and Cole Potrowski with 5.39 seconds, winning them $833.40 per team.

Barrel Racing delivers fast action as a timed speed and agility event mainly by women in which horse and rider gallop around a cloverleaf pattern of barrels, without knocking the barrels over. Timber Allenbrand captured first place with a time of 15.009 seconds, winning $1,064.58. Liz McManus, currently ranked first in the season’s standings, placed second with a time of 15.113 seconds, winning $831.70. 22nd-ranked Jordyn Koonsman finished third with a time of 15.258 seconds, winning $598.82.

With only one competitive bull rider, there were no results for the bull riding. Although skills and equipment similar to those needed for bareback bronc riding are required, the event differs considerably from horse riding competition due to the danger involved. Because bulls are unpredictable and may attack a fallen rider, Matt Clouse and Colt Carlisle helped distract the bulls. Earlier in the evening they gathered up and dusted off the fallen mutton bustin’ contestants.

And after the rodeo, the Carnival was the place to go for young and old, some dressed to impress, to hang out and enjoy some fun under the neon lights in the warm, evening breeze.

Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS

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