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A Rodeo Thanksgiving

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A Rodeo Thanksgiving

A cowboy removes his hat during a moment of thanks.

Photo © Mary Vogt
As the calendar creeps towards Thanksgiving, people around the country make plans to gather with family and friends to celebrate the holiday. Everyone celebrates a little differently, with some cooking a massive meal for a houseful of people, while others head out to their favorite restaurant to enjoy a relaxing, stress-free meal. Thanksgiving for cowboys and cowgirls is no different, and, regardless of whether they're at home or on the road, thanks are given in abundance.

Blessings for the Family

Ask any rodeo participant what they are most thankful for, and most will say the love and support of a strong family. Life on the rodeo circuit is extremely taxing on a family, and it takes a very strong bond to remain close when you're separated by hundreds of miles. The main objective of any rodeo cowboy or cowgirl is to earn the highest amount of money in a chosen event, and the best way to do that is to enter as many rodeos as possible. This difficult schedule means a competitor may be away from home for weeks or months at a time, which strains even the strongest relationship. Many rodeo families consist of more than one competitor, and everyone competes in the same rodeos. This gives them a chance to pursue their dreams and stay together on the road. However, not every family has the opportunity to travel together. Open communication and spending as much time together as possible between circuits is the key to surviving life on the road.

Blessings for the Animals

No cowboy or cowgirl wins a rodeo without the assistance of a talented animal, and blessings for these wonderful animals are certainly in order this holiday season. Rough stock horses and bulls are more than just animals; they are prized, skilled competitors in the eyes of both contractors and cowboys. They are valuable animals, and receive the best care possible to stay healthy, comfortable and well-fed throughout the year. Bull riders, saddle bronc and bareback cowboys are nothing in the arena without these powerful animals, and a few quietly-spoken words of thanks are in order. Rodeo horses, whether they are roping mounts or barrel racing horses, are the heart and soul of a timed-event team. Competitors spend countless dollars purchasing and training their mounts, and it takes many years to transform a wily colt into a well-trained rodeo machine. Ropers and barrel racers spend hundreds of hours a year with their horses, honing their skills and competing in the hopes of bringing home the big money. An extra handful of grain and a few extra scratches are just the thing to express your thanks after a perfect practice session.

Blessings for Success

Winning is the objective of every professional athlete, including . Their livelihood depends on how well they perform at each rodeo, and every winning run is cause for thanks. Cowboys and cowgirls live from paycheck to paycheck, literally; their income is never for a set amount, and their ability to pay the bills rests squarely on their performance in the arena. A winning run at a small, local rodeo may pay $200, while a major circuit win may pay 10 or 20 times that amount. Many competitors openly display their thanks after a winning round, kneeling or bowing their heads in prayer. Displays of faith are also common before a run, as competitors gather together to pray and ask for the blessing of a safe and successful ride. Many organizations host "cowboy church" before each competition, coming together in a mutual show of thanks and good wishes for continued success. Being blessed with the talent and skill to compete in rodeo is a rare occurrence, and those with the good fortune to make a living enjoying that they love most are eternally grateful for the honor.

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