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Prepping for Rodeo Season


Prepping for Rodeo Season

Cowboys wait near the arena for their turn.

Photo © Mary Vogt
As with any professional sport, rodeo athletes must prepare well in advance of the upcoming season to perform at the top of their game. However, unlike other sports, the rodeo season runs year-round. This means that cowboys and cowgirls must stay in top form in order to beat the competition. World champion competitors follow a routine of diet, exercise and training to become the best in the business.

Good In, Good Out

Maintaining a healthy diet is difficult for most people, but it is necessary for professional athletes, including rodeo competitors. Even the smallest amount of excess weight can throw someone off balance, a dangerous concept when that person is perched atop a bucking, spinning bull. Every athlete has his or her own idea of what a healthy diet is, although the main focus should be plenty of vegetables, fruits and a small amount of lean protein each day. Fairgrounds and rodeo events are packed with fried foods and sugary drinks, making it especially challenging to eat healthy while on the road. An alternative to loading up on unhealthy food is to pack a cooler full of healthy options. If a craving is unavoidable, it's ok to indulge on occasion, but don't make it a habit or your performance will suffer.


Rodeo is a physically demanding sport for both rough stock and timed event competitors alike, and frequent exercise is necessary to keep muscles strong and supple. The type of exercise each competitor does is dependent on his or her sport of choice; bull riders rely on their strength, and may focus on strength training over cardio, while a barrel racer may do more jogging and stretching to keep her muscles limber. While not on the road, it's an easy task to head over to the gym to stay in shape. It takes a little more creativity to create a workout routine while traveling from rodeo to rodeo. The bleachers make an excellent running course if you're in the need to kick up your cardio. Run up and down the stairs a few times before the crowds come in for a quick, high-intensity workout. Hay bales and heavy saddles are great alternatives to traditional weights while on the road; do a few reps each morning and your muscles will thank you.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The old saying, "practice makes perfect" rings true for most things in life, including rodeo. Both rough stock and timed events require plenty of skill, and honing those skills is necessary to bring home the big money. There's no need to set up a full-blown rodeo to practice your skills; team ropers often toss their ropes at practice dummies, and barrel racers work on their turns and pockets in the comfort of their own arenas. Timed event competitors must also be mindful of their horses' skills throughout the season; some horses suffer burnout after just one or two rodeos, and other do just fine running four or five times a week. If the horse is balking, refusing to enter the arena or showing other signs of frustration, try changing up your routine. Take him on a nice, long trail ride or haul him to a new arena to stave off boredom. Rough stock riders often get together and host small practice competitions to gain experience on a variety of animals, giving them the skills necessary to stay atop any kind of bucker. Mechanical bulls aren't just for the drunk crowd at the local bar; they are also a handy tool for honing your skills when real bulls are not available. They may not move exactly like a real bull would, but the twisting and bucking motions are enough to keep even seasoned cowboys on their toes.

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