I don’t mean English gentlemen – I mean those things that cowboys wear over their jeans. You see a lot of them at a rodeo.
The campdraft was obviously the main purpose of the Saxby Roundup. Two and a half out of 3 days were devoted to campdraft. In case you didn’t read the earlier blog, the campdraft is a bit like sheep dog trials, but without the sheep and without the dog. It’s somebody on a horse rounding up a steer, around the first set of poles and then through the ‘gate’, in 40 seconds.
It’s harder than it sounds. A few didn’t make it in time, and lots more didn’t even come close. Horses fell, riders fell and steers refused to do what they were told. There were lots of classes from novices to open, and even the little kids got involved.
I’ve never been a ‘horsey’ person. Even as a teenage, or pre-teen, girl I wasn’t into horses. To tell the truth – I’m scared of them. They’re big, with big teeth and a nasty kick. Boys were much easier to handle, though I’m pretty sure my mother would have preferred it if I liked horses!
So it’s quite confronting to see very small children sitting on very large horses. Even more so when they then ride out and round up a steer. Some of the kids had their dads riding alongside them to guide them through, but each and every child was riding their own horse, all by themselves. I saw kids who I’m sure couldn’t even walk yet out there on horses! Sure, some of them were on ponies, but lots were on big horses.
But after the camp draft competitions came the rodeo. Bulldogging, calf scruffing, rope & tie, team roping, and the big ones – bull and bronco riding.
I tell you – lassoing is a dying art. I’d heard that roping and tying a steer is cruel to the animal, so I was expecting to not like that at all. But what took the most punishment was the competitors’ egos. Only one individual and one team managed to successfully rope a calf. Even in the bulldogging, where the bloke (and they were all blokes) jumped off his horse onto the steer and wrestled it to the ground, some of them missed altogether and landed flat on their faces in the dirt.
All to cries from the crowd of “What are you doing down there?” or “You’re too old to be playing in the sand”.
A tip – if you’re after contract mustering you could do worse than hire Ben Hall and his team. Ben won everything. He won a couple of divisions of the camp draft and even came third in one of the competitions he also won. I have no idea how, but I don’t pretend to understand these things. He won the cut out, the bull riding and the bronco riding. People who worked for him as contract musterers rode in the bull and bronco rides. So Ben and his team are obviously good riders and can handle anything, and would be good to hire.
Or maybe not. I mean, they have to practice all that rough riding somewhere and maybe it’s on your bulls!
But then came the barrel race.
This was a women and girls only race. Whether by design or because blokes couldn’t be bothered I don’t know, but the competitors were all female, with the youngest looking to be about 10 years old. And they all had their make up, nice clothes, sparkles and jewellery. Hmm, my feminist brain was thinking, why is it that the girls/women have to look good to compete? But they weren’t out there for a beauty contest. They rode hard, and the way some worked their horses in close around those barrels was amazing.
But then came the bull and bronc riding. Only blokes compete in the bull and bronc riding. I asked one of the women who competed in the campdraft why this was so “Huh” she said “We’re not that stupid.” If you’ve ever wondered why so many cowboys have limps – watch a rodeo. It’ll explain everything.
Which brings me back to chaps.
Bronc and bull riding is a very macho sport. These blokes are testing their strength and cunning against an animal that is much bigger and stronger than them. An animal that doesn’t want them on their backs so will buck, twist and turn, and do everything it can to try to get them off.
And while doing this, the blokes wear sparkly, bright coloured and patterned chaps. Let me tell you – real cowboys do wear pink. And they wear purple, gold, sparkles and florals. They would put a kids ballet concert to shame.
So there goes another stereotype.