The rodeo is built around events of what the cowboy use to have to do on the open range. Calf roping, bulldogging, calf penning, even bull and bronc riding all have their roots on actual farms or ranches. While breaking a horse is done much differently nowadays, and branding is not as widespread a practice, cowboys now compete to see who is the fastest.
The 58th annual Attica Rodeo kicked off Thursday evening under a cloud-dotted sky and a cool breeze. Gene Rautenstrauch, of Attica, and a 28 year member of the Rodeo, said the event started in 1957.
“It started with a bunch of boys getting together,” Rautenstrauch said. “They brought their own livestock and put on a show. They had no bleachers then, just a snow fence to mark the arena. We’d have cars circle the arena and use their lights for lighting and the spectators would sit on the hoods of their cars and watch.”
Although the first ticket was just a quarter in 1957, rodeo officials said the event has grown more and more over the years. Added bleachers and events have made the rodeo a hot summer destination.
Part of the International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA), American Professional Rodeo Association (APRA) and Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA), the Attica Rodeo is a not-for-profit organization and its proceeds go back into the rodeo to “keep things going” or the money is donated to community organizations.
“We (Rautenstrauch and his wife) started out just trail riding and Dave Wheeler really got us going,” Rautenstrauch said. “He said that he was in the Attica Rodeo Club so we came down and watched the events and have been involved ever since.
“Years ago I use to team pen,” Rautenstrauch said. “It’s an event that we brought into the rodeo that most other rodeos don’t have. A team of three has 90 seconds to separate and get numbered calves into a pen without going over the foul line. It’s difficult but it’s fun.”
Dean Wright said he’s been in the rodeo forever and a member of Attica Rodeo for 57 years. But he only started team roping 10 to 15 years ago.
“I started after I retired,” Wright said. “I go to a few rodeos in the state just for fun. I’ve raised quarter horses for years.”
According to Wright, several of the cowboys who are campaigning come to the Northern states during the summer and the Southern states during the winter. There are 10 to 12 participants in each category, with approximately a dozen events. While there is no age requirement to ride in a rodeo, Wright said you have to be in pretty good shape to compete.
The smaller steers used for events are Mexican Corriente, they are a breed that does not get very large – weighing a mere 200 pounds – and their horns can be no larger than the size of a 50-cent piece.
While the Attica Rodeo provides entertainment for people of all ages, the rodeo is more than just a sport. It is a chance to learn about equine health and educate people.
Jim Miller, owner of Green Mountain, Attica, has been in the equine business for 35 years. The company manufactures supplements for the animals.
“Because horses no longer roam the range like they use to, the animals now need specific nutrient requirements. Our supplements are balanced for a horse's diet,” Miller said. “We have domesticated the horse and locked them into a pasture so they can’t run millions of acres to get their nutrition. In the Great Lakes Region, where we are, the soil is deficient in cobalt, selenium, and iodine – three trace minerals – if you don’t have that, the horse will have health problems.
"Selenium is good for breeding. Cobalt is necessary to make hemoglobin in the blood, and iodine keeps metabolism up. If a horse lacks iodine they can become obese horses and get something similar to diabetes in humans.”
Not only is horse health an all-year endeavor, preparation for the annual event is a yearlong process as well.
“As soon as the last animal is penned Sunday night, the next Tuesday, we start planning for the next year,” Rautenstrauch said. “We start contacting vendors and sponsors, repair equipment and take care of the grounds. It takes a lot of work and effort.
"There are 60-plus club member volunteers as well as others that come and help. About two weeks before the event, inmates from the prison (Wyoming Correctional Facility) come out and help with cleaning up and mowing the grounds.”
Rautenstrauch puts is simply: Just come out and enjoy the outdoors and the atmosphere; “Cowboy people are the best people going.”
• Bareback bronc riding: Most cowboys agree that this is the most physically demanding event. To stay aboard the horse, the rider uses a rigging made of leather placed atop the horse’s withers and is secured with a cinch. Not only does the cowboy have to stay on the animal, he is also judged on his spurring techniques.
• Saddle bronc riding: This event evolved from the task of breaking and training horses to work the cattle ranches in the Old West. Many cowboys claim this is the toughest event to master because of the technical skills necessary for success. The objective is a fluid, synchronized ride with the movement of the horse.
• Steer wrestling: This is also known as bulldogging. The cowboy must be both quick and strong for this event. The steer wrestler has to use strength and technique to wrestle an animal that generally weighs twice as much as the cowboy. The catch is that both steer and cowboy are often traveling at approximately 30 mph.
• Team roping: This event requires both close cooperation and timing between two skilled ropers – a header and a heeler – as well as their horses. This event originated from when cowboys needed to treat or brand large steers that proved too difficult for one man to handle.
• Team penning: Teams of three horse and rider combinations work to separate particular cows and herd them into the penning area in under 60 seconds.
• Barrel racing: Speed is the essence of this event. It is the cooperation between the horse and rider riding a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels.
• Calf roping: On working ranches in the Old West, when calves were sick or injured, cowboys had to rope and immobilize them quickly for veterinary treatment. Ranch hands prided themselves on the speed with which they could rope and tie calves. Eventually, this turned into informal contests and is now a mainstay at rodeos.
• Breakaway roping: This is a variation of calf roping where the calf is roped, but not thrown and tied.
• Bull riding: This demands intense physical power, supreme mental toughness and courage. The bull rider may only use one hand to stay atop a 2,000-pound bull during an eight-second ride. Balance, flexibility, coordination and quick reflexes are essential in bull riding.
The rodeo continues tonight at 8, Saturday at 1 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.
For more information visit http://www.atticarodeo.us/
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