Behind the Scenes: The Rodeo World

After blogging all about Addy May’s adventures I’ve decided it’s time I tell you how we got started. Addy May and I did not come from a rodeo family. We grew up in a small town in Texas but partook in the other end of the riding spectrum. I grew up showing Show Jumping horses. Contrary to popular stereotypes, I trained my own horses, cleaned stalls, and spent every hour I could in a barn.

In the English riding sport, fashion is tailored, preppy and traditional. The crowds are quiet, the formats are organized and consistent from show to show. You could say that it closely relates to the Golf crowd. Unless you have a passion for the sport, you would rather be napping.

When I met my knight in spurs and a cowboy hat, I had to quickly adapt to this new riding sport! I knew the basics of rodeo growing up in a small town and growing up with friends who were involved. However, once I really became a part of that world, I realized there was so much to this “world” that I did not know. In this world, there was a whole lot more of, “Addy that’s not mud!” and a whole lot less of the sophisticated and organized venues with quiet crowds.

First I had to learn the rodeo vocabulary! There is slack, go rounds, progressive rounds, performance rounds and more, with each rodeo having a different mix of the previously mentioned. Then there’s at least two names for each “discipline”. Steer Wrestling is also known as bull dogging, which for this incredibly literal lady makes little sense; Tie-Down roping is really known as Calf Roping (and I strongly suggest that you don’t call it tie-down roping if you don’t want to stick out as the rookie) and the cowboys that partake in the scored events (saddle bronc, bareback and bull riding) are also known as “roughies”. Then on top of all of these conundrums, the venues are far from harmonious.

Getting to the rodeo was always an issue as the fair grounds were conveniently located in a no cellular service zone (of course) and most of the time on the side of town that you don’t want to run out of gas in. When it came to navigating to and through these rodeos, stress was inevitable!

Next came the most stressful partfinding contestant parking. Some very generous places offer a ‘contestant parking’ sign. Others have you park two blocks past the arena, down an alley, behind the apartment complex, across the railroad tracks and over the cattle guard to arrive to the stalls/trailers etc. Once you get there you show your companion pass (a magical card that declares your worthiness to follow these cowboys wherever they go) for the gate man to let you through. If you’re really lucky, the gate man says you need a specific parking pass. You know, that one that your knight, (now, in aluminum foil) forgot to mention and definitely forgot to leave at the gate for you. Once I make it in the rodeo, the “fun” continues.

At all of these rodeos, they offer hospitality. Not only does this entail free food but also a view of the rodeo or live stream and for the super fabulous places, a play area for the kiddos! The facilities are often a tent, sometimes a nice air conditioned room, and no matter what, always extremely hard to find. The first year of rodeos, the embarrassment of parading a baby in circles completely lost was not worth it so I often opted to give up the free food and convenience and went for the easily spotted concession stand and a seat in the stands.

Learning the ropes of being a rodeo companion can be extremely overwhelming and intimidating at first. In the English riding world, you stick to “your people”, go to the show, ride how your trainer tells you (oh and no other trainer but yours is correct by the way), leave the show and that’s that. Rodeo on the other hand, is a whole different ballgame.

I quickly learned that rodeo is not only a sport but a lifestyle. In this lifestyle there are social dos and don’ts, fashion expectations and many other aspects. My first few rodeos I noticed that so many of the wives/girlfriends were like family. I would walk into hospitality and see clusters of women sitting about and would desperately search for an empty table. It felt like a horrible flashback from high school. My mission became “find a corner and quickly blend in”. All these women were videoing their cowboys runs just right and they were always where they needed to be when they needed to be there! On top of all this, they were fashionable. Not in the western fashions out of a John Wayne movie as I had expected, but hip and trendy. I was also a “simple sleek” make up wearer. But, these women had perfectly applied make-up and perfectly styled hair. I had no idea how to fit in. I begin to think, “Well crap! Forget the corner, I need a hole to hide in!”

After many rodeos and “learning experiences”, I have figured out the world of rodeo and found my place. I can now proudly say that I have completed my rookie years of being a rodeo companion and have figured the ins and outs (for the most part). For all of you women entering the rodeo world, that were rookies like me, yes it is intimidating, but worth it. The rodeo family and support system is incomparable to any other riding sport that I have known. It is an amazing opportunity to expand your extended family. With love of family, horses and all things western all around you, it starts to feel like home.

Till Next Time My Simply Southern Friends!




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