After spending the morning cleaning around the house preparing for the upcoming holiday, I sat down this afternoon to watch the Canadian Finals Rodeo. The rough stock events are my favourite, next to barrel racing of course. Today a handful of the world’s best cowboys gave it their all once again for a shot at the money. There were definitely some impressive rides and more than some impressive bucking stock. As always the CFR has lived up to its reputation as being home to some of the rankest horses and best cowboys in rodeo today. While I have never been much of a bronc rider myself, I have had my fair share of rank rides on normally quiet horses. A few separate incidents stick out in my mind, all on good old broke rodeo horses.
The first episode took place at Willingdon Rodeo when I was maybe 10 years old. My father was bull dogging pretty competitively at the time, though he didn’t have his own horse. A borrowed seven-year-old gelding named Spud became my old man’s winning mount. On that particular day, my dad agreed to ride in grand entry then promptly forgot about his commitment until minutes before the rodeo began. He ran back to the trailer in a mad rush, saddled and jumped on. I somehow managed to convince him to let me double behind him for the grand entry. When we began our tour of the arena, about two strides in, Spud started bucking. Spud was broke as long as you warmed him up, something that usually wasn’t an issue. My father can ride just about anything out, whether through skill or stubbornness, I’ve never known. But with my little legs flying up with every jump and back down into his flanks every time his feet hit the ground, Spud wasn’t slowing down. Finally, Dad pushed me off thinking I was safer on the ground than being thrown into the bucking chutes. I picked myself and my wounded pride up off that arena floor and sulked out. Needless to say, that was the last time I doubled in grand entry.
I learned young that I don’t like when horses buck. I was reminded of that this winter when my new barrel horse tried to pile me for the first time. It was a cold winter day and I was too lazy to lead Cacao to the arena, so I jumped on bareback; just like I had dozens of times the previous summer. The problem being, Cacao decided she wasn’t ready to come out of her winter retirement after only two short months. As soon as I swung onto her back, she bogged her head and sent me flying. I lay breathless and bruised on the ice while the bag stood there and looked down at me, almost as if she were saying, “What are you doing down there?”
The last time, was our first rodeo of the year. It was a typical May long weekend in Alberta, raining, cold and overall miserable. I was the first out in the Saturday night performance and the stands were packed. We came running into the arena turned first and second then about half way around third, Cao lit into it. She bogged her head and crow hopped while I, shocked and confused, scrambled to stay on top. Every time I tried to pull her head up she’d unseat me again. When I thought I was finally going to take a dive into the dirt, she quit. The announcer made a comment then that I will never forget;
“Now that’s a cowgirl. Give her a hand folks.”
I took her back around third and trotted home, my face blazing with embarrassment. I don’t know what kept me in the saddle that day, skill, pride, or my old man’s stubbornness.
Looking back now I laugh. I was lucky enough to have someone there to tape my run and every time I watch the video it gets funnier. I realized something very important that day; I won’t always have a perfect run or the fastest time, but every time I swing up into that saddle I get better and I learn something new. And that is what being a real cowgirl is all about; admitting your mistakes and improving on them every time you ride. I wanted to be a cowgirl, now it’s time to put the big girl panties on. No pain, no gain.