During these trying past three years there have been many changes to our rodeo and roping world. The changes just seem to keep coming on, and more negative than positive in the past couple of months.
COVID was the beginning of a change in many things we did and many events were cancelled or put on hold. Others continued with certain guidelines and restrictions, but at least the events were held, in many cases conducted at a loss, but they went on.
Just when COVID seemed to be easing off and many events were coming back to a normal routine, the cost of everything connected with our way of life seemed to skyrocket. Then to top it all off, another wave of COVID has been sweeping the country slowing some individuals down again.
Weather changes on top of all of this have been hard on ranchers and farmers and have driven the cost of production over the top. Seeing how many of our community associated with our Western way life are in the agricultural sector, it has put pressure on our livelihood and travel.
This season is seeing fuel, room, food, entry fees, feed and many other travel-related items skyrocket and yet the entries seem to be holding up. The cost of a new truck, if you can find one, is over the top and yet you see people still going. Bless those who are finding a way to make it work. My main concern is the youth of our industry and especially those who don’t come from an agricultural background, being able to afford to join the ranks of our great society of rodeo and roping competition.
It is a time when any youth related events need to be supported with sponsorships and fundraisers than ever before. I know many parents are hard-strapped to continue to keep their children in this ever changing sport. The timed events have been hit the hardest during these times and the cost of a horse for any event has gone through the roof. Many folks who want to get into this way of life don’t even own a pickup, trailer or have a place to keep a horse.
Some years back I wrote an article about the need for the establishment of support teams that would show up at an event and mount contestants on horses from their team. In other words, some of our friends in this industry need to look into putting a team of horses together and basically rent them to those who need an animal. The better animals would go to those that excel in horsemanship and talent and the beginners would have to prove themselves to earn a seat on a better horse. The old formula of mount money would be recalibrated and would ensure the horse owners checks cover the expense of ownership plus profit. For many years, polo was that way, as not many polo players owned their own horses but rode others provided by a team or individual.
I feel this could be done at the Junior level all the way to the Pros. In many cases today, some professionals in certain timed events are riding horses not belonging to them. It would be great if some high schools and junior rodeo programs could include this through their FFA and 4 H programs.
All of this is just some starting thoughts of how the cost of travel may be met today. I have a good friend who has a daughter in timed events and right now they are hauling five horses to rodeos so she can compete in all her events. That is a big undertaking and isn’t something that many are capable of doing if they live in an urban area.
I have often said that our way of life used to be a poor man’s pastime with some reward of winning now and then. I hate to see it turn into a rich man’s hobby and leave the innovators and the creators by the wayside. I think we can come up with a way our youth can continue on doing what they love to do and learning a bonding relationship with animals, family and friends.
Have a great summer and travel safe.