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Rodeo Kids


Rodeo Kids

A tiny competitor clings to a charging sheep during the mutton bustin' event.

Photo © TommyG Productions.
While most people associate rodeo with massive bucking bulls, brawny cowboys, and tall, statuesque barrel racers, it's not an adults-only sport. Many of the most successful rodeo personalities got their start as children, competing in pint-sized events at peewee and junior rodeos. A variety of events exist for the smallest rodeo enthusiasts, and they offer fun, excitement and prizes to the most determined little cowboys and cowgirls.

Stick Pony Events

Some rodeos offer this event for children too small to ride, or those not yet ready to climb on the back of a real horse. Each competitor is given a stick horse and every child gathers in the arena. They all stand behind the start line and take off at the start signal, riding their stick pony as fast as possible to the finish line. Some rodeos offer different stick pony events, such as stick pony barrels or pole bending, which are a fun twist on the standard stick race.

Lead-line Events

Lead-line events are normally reserved for the youngest and most inexperienced competitors. In lead-line events, the little competitor climbs aboard his horse and holds on tight while a parent or helper leads the horse through the course. Barrel racing and rodeo trail courses are some of the most common lead-line events, but these may vary from organization to organization. Lead-line events are normally timed, and the horse and helper that cross the finish line in the shortest time are declared the winners.

Walk/Trot Classes

Walk/trot classes are a step up from lead-line events, with competitors navigating themselves around simple event courses. Riders are restricted to slow speeds, and move at a walk or trot while trying to navigate the course without making any mistakes. Walk/trot riders have more experience than lead-line riders and can ride by themselves, normally on calm, experienced horses that are familiar with rodeo events.

Mutton Bustin'

This hilarious sport is relatively new on the rodeo scene, although the theory behind this wooly ride is familiar: eager cowboys and cowgirls hop on the back of a sheep and hold on for dear life. The sheep is loaded into a small chute, much like those used for bulls and bucking horses. The brave little competitor climbs on the sheep and wraps his hands in the sheep's wool. Chute workers open the gate and the sheep runs fill-tilt across the arena, with the competitor hanging on as long as possible. The rider that stays on for the longest amount of time wins the event.

Junior Timed Events

Junior barrel racing is the same as the adult races, with the competitors broken into groups based on their ages and abilities. Pole bending is common at junior rodeos, and each competitor if required to weave around a set of 6 poles in the shortest time possible. The flag race is another common junior rodeo event, and it is a test of speed and precision. Two 5-gallon bucket are filled with soft dirt or oats, and placed on two barrels on opposite sides of the arena. A flag is placed in one bucket, and each competitor is given another flag. She runs to the empty barrel, jams the flag inside, runs across to the other barrel, scoops the remaining flag out, and carries it to the finish line as fast as possible. Goat tying is a smaller version of adult tie-down roping, and goat tail tying involves the competitors running to a goat staked in the middle of the arena, grabbing a ribbon of his tail, and either throwing his hands up to stop the timer or running back across the finish line on foot.

Junior Rough Stock

These events are miniaturized versions of adult rough stock events, with brave young men and women climbing on small rough stock. Small, lightweight competitors may enter the calf or steer riding events, while taller, heavier cowboys straddling small bulls. Little cowboys with the desire to hop aboard a bucking horse often practice their skills on ponies, moving up to larger horses as they become stronger and more confident.

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