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The Life of a Rodeo Cowboy


The Life of a Rodeo Cowboy

A cowboy ties the legs of a calf during the tie down roping event.

Image © lightfoot at Morguefile
A grinning cowboy stands in the center of the arena, in a blazing spotlight, as a stunning rodeo queen hands him a large paycheck for his winning ride. The cheers from the crowd raise and swell into the open air, cheering on the hero who clambered, spurred and kicked his way to victory. While the cowboy soaks in the admiration of hundreds of cheering fans, his mind is already on the road to the next competition.

A Passion for Rodeo

Rodeo is less of a sport and more of a lifestyle for those with determination and a passion for adventure. Hardcore cowboys and cowgirls often inherit the rodeo bug from their parents and their grandparents before them, reveling in every mud stain and bruise picked up in the arena. Serious competitors are often in the arena before the sun breaks over the horizon, exercising horses and practicing their roping skills in the pre-dawn haze. This dedication stretches well into the evening hours, with many competitions lasting long past sunset. Even after the checks have been handed out and the last spectator leaves the arena, there's still work to be done. Horses must be cooled off, untacked and fed, while gear needs to be wiped clean and oiled in preparation for the next rodeo.

Body of an Athlete

Football players, basketball stars and soccer phenoms are easily recognized as professional athletes, but rodeo competitors aren't always given the same considerations. People often assume that anyone can hop on a horse and rope a calf, but it takes years of proper conditioning and training to be in top form. It can be hard to resist the temptations of rodeo food, and many professional cowboys and cowgirls follow a strict eating regimen to stave off flab. Excessive weight gain affects balance and coordination, and a bull rider who gains 10 pounds will have a much harder time staying aboard 1,000 pounds of bucking bovine. Practice truly does make perfect, and professional cowboys spend hours a day perfecting their skills. Most cowboys and cowgirls show an interest in rodeo at a young age, and spend their childhood and teenage years entering junior rodeos and honing their skills. Older competitors can be just as successful, but must log countless hours of practice to stay in the money.

On the Road Again

Cowboys and cowgirls with a burning desire to make it to the National Finals Rodeo must attend dozens of rodeos every year. It's not unheard of for cowboys to attend two or three rodeos a week in order to make it to the National Finals Rodeo. The more rodeos a cowboy attends, the more likely he is to bring home a paycheck and earn a spot in the NFR. As soon as one rodeo ends, die-hard cowboys pile in their trucks and drive down the highway to the next competitions, logging thousands of miles a year as they chase the dream. Cowboys who compete in rough stock events have the luxury of hopping on a plane, but those with horses have to travel by truck to see their animals safely to the next competition. Many a cowboy has given up his day job to travel full-time, and those with the right skills make enough in earnings to compensate for lost wages. Making it to the National Finals is reward enough for the countless hours spend covered in dirt and sleeping in strange hotel rooms, although the millions of dollars of prize money at stake surely sweetens the pot. Those lucky enough to make the finals spend 10 days in the spotlight, hoping and praying to rise to the top. Cowboys and cowgirls who don't rank in the top 15 in the world get an extra couple of weeks at home before the next season starts and the chase for glory begins again. Professional cowboys with a true love of the sport eat, sleep and breathe rodeo, and wouldn't have it any other way.

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