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Happy Trails to You


Happy Trails to You

Every good cowboy will eventually ride off into the sunset.

Photo © Mary Vogt
While some rodeo participants are born into the sport, others stumble into it later in life. All participants take a few hard knocks during their years in the arena, and the older you are, the harder it is to recover. Retirement is something no cowboy wants to think about, but a reality that every rider must eventually face.

Hard Knock Life

The most common reason rodeo participants retire is injuries. Both timed event cowboys and rough stock riders alike are prone to injuries, although the type and severity can be vastly different. Timed event riders, including cowboys that participate in roping events and steer wrestling, are prone to accidents involving the arms and shoulders. These may be minor, such as a jammed finger or pulled muscles, or may be as severe as torn rotator cuffs or broken bones. Bull riding, saddle bronc riding and bareback riding are dominated by young cowboys who are more resilient and able to bounce back from injuries faster than their well-aged counterparts. A rough stock rider get beat up during nearly every ride, whether it's from an unlucky dismount or a horn to the face. Bumps and bruises are common for rough stock riders, although more serious, and potentially life-threatening, injuries are a hazard of the sport. Famed cowboy Lane Frost fell victim to the horns of a bull during his final ride, prompting bull riders across the country to take a heightened interest in life-saving safety equipment.

No Longer Enjoyable

When getting up at the crack of dawn to drive 300 miles to the next rodeo no longer lights a spark in a cowboy's eye, it might be time for him to retire. Life on the rodeo trail can certainly be interesting, but it is draining on both the body and mind. Long, lonely stretches of highway can leave a cowboy feeling empty, and too many trips alone can leave him longing for the comfort and stability of life back home. Many rough stock riders have the luxury of flying from rodeo to rodeo and don't suffer the road wear that timed-event cowboys and cowgirls feel, but eventually the hectic pace of life on the road takes its toll on even the heartiest competitors. When the fans and cheering crowds start to sound more like annoying background noise and less like the cheering adoration of fans, it might be time to hang up your spurs.

Something More

Rodeo may be the perfect lifestyle for some competitors, but many eventually want more than ride after ride on the back of a dusty bull. Rodeo competitors are like most professional athletes in the fact that they put their entire lives on hold to pursue their careers, including education, relationships, and starting a family. The prime focus for a rodeo start early in his career has to be fine-tuning and honing their skills, and winning as many rodeos as possible to increase his earnings and win a spot in the coveted National Finals Rodeo. Some cowboys and cowgirls are lucky enough to meet a kindred spirit on the rodeo circuit and live out their dreams together, but others are not so fortunate. The drive to win can become an obsession, and some things have to be put on hold in order to fuel that desire for success. For some, the passion for rodeo never truly fades, but becomes tempered and balanced with a life away from the arena. These folks often stay close to their rodeo roots, working on cattle ranches or passing on their knowledge and skills to up-and-coming rodeo stars. Rodeo is a sport that you never fully retire from; while you may not be actively competing, your mind is constantly reliving all the highs and lows of your time in the arena.

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