Cowboy Up! It’s Rodeo Time in New Mexico!

Bullrider at the Taos Rodeo, Taos, New Mexico. Copyright NIna Anthony 2014

Bullrider at the Taos Rodeo, Taos, New Mexico. Copyright Nina Anthony 2014

By Nina Anthony, Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The 2014 rodeo calendar for northern New Mexico includes a number of exciting events –- from sanctioned PRCA rodeos to working ranch rodeos. Whether it’s a two-day event that attracts competitors from around the Southwest or a small-town event with a close-knit group of working ranch cowboys competing against different teams, you’ll have a great time being transported to the Old West while watching modern-day cowboys and cowgirls flaunt their flair at riding and roping.

With the 45th Annual Rodeo de Taos just around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to share some background about rodeos so that those of you who have never attended a rodeo will get more enjoyment out of your first experience.

So, read on and brush up before you go. Happy Trails!

Rodeo History

Rodeo comes from the Spanish word, “rodear,” meaning to encircle or to surround. The term was associated with Spanish cattlemen, known as vaqueros, rounding up cattle in the mid-16th and 17th centuries. The chores of the early vaqueros, along with their clothing, traditions, and tools of the trade, influenced American cowboys as westward expansion in the early 1800s created huge cattle ranches in California, Texas, and what was known then as the New Mexico Territories.

Cattle barons would organize long cattle drives to move cattle from their ranchland to stockyards in midwestern towns like Kansas City in order to meet the demand for beef from the populous eastern states. At the end of these long drives, cowhands would often hold informal contests among themselves and other cattle ranching outfits to see which ranch had the most skilled riders, ropers, and horse breakers. It was from these cowboy competitions that modern rodeo evolved.

 Historical image ofTex Crockett riding a bucking bronc at an early20th century rodeo competitionThe exact date of the first formal organized rodeo that charged admission to spectators is a bit convoluted. Prescott, Arizona, claims they were home to America’s first official rodeo in 1888 and has even gone so far as to trademark its annual summer rodeo’s designation as “The World’s Oldest Rodeo.” Payson, Arizona, argues that it held America’s first organized rodeo that same year, offering documentation that shows the silver shield awarded to the 1888 winner, Juan Leivas. Pecos, Texas, claims that it held America’s first official rodeo on July 4, 1883, basing its claims on a 1928 interview with some of the event’s participants who explained that ranch owners in the area put up $40 in prize money for the best bronc riders and steer ropers.

Clifford Westermeier, author of the 1947 book, Man, Beast, Dust: The Story of Rodeo, shoots down all of those claims. He found an old copy of the Field and Farm Journal of Denver that led him to believe that the first organized competition of cowboys for prize money was on July 4, 1869, at Deer Trail, Colorado. The champion of that event was Emilnie Gardenshire, an Englishman riding a bronc named Montana Blizzard. He was named Champion Bronc Buster of the Plains and walked off with a new set of clothes.

Regardless of the controversy over where the first official rodeo was held, one thing is certain: today’s rodeo competitions are an evocation of the history and mythology of the American West and an exciting spectator sport showcasing some amazing athleticism.

Rodeo Lingo

Now that you know the roots of rodeo, it’s time to learn some basic rodeo lingo. Knowing what’s what and who’s who will provide you with a better understanding of the events and help you get more out the experience.

 Detail of a cowboys chaps, Rodeo de Taos, Taos, New MexicoCHAPS – Widely flared leather leggings, worn over blue jeans to accentuate bucking action and protect the rider’s legs.

DALLY – To wrap the end of the rope around the saddle horn immediately after an animal is roped

FLANK STRAP – Sheepskin-lined strap with a self-holding buckle passed around the flank of a bronc or bull, used to enhance bucking action. (And no, this strap isn’t used to tie up the animal’s testicles, as some people mistakenly believe.)

MARK-OUT – When a bronc rider keeps his heels ahead of the horse’s shoulders on the first jump out of the chute (missing the mark results in disqualification)

NO TIME/ NO SCORE – What a cowboy/cowgirl receives when he/she is disqualified for any reason. (falling off a bucking bronc before 8 seconds, or knocking over a barrel in a barrel racing event, for example)

PICKUP MAN – The horseback cowboy in the arena who rescues or “picks up” the saddle bronc and bareback bronc riders from their horses after a ride.

RIGGING – The leather pad in bareback bronc riding or the rope in bull riding on to which the cowboy holds

ROUGHSTOCK EVENTS – Rodeo events based on scores, such as bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding

TIMED EVENTS – Rodeo events based on speed, such as tie-down roping, steer wrestling, team roping and barrel racing

STOCK CONTRACTOR – The company that provides all animals for the rodeo

Rodeo Rules

SADDLE BRONC RIDING – An event where the cowboy attempts to ride a bucking bronc with a saddle for 8 seconds. As noted above in the lingo section, if the rider doesn’t last 8 seconds he earns a “no-time.” When the 8 seconds has elapsed with the rider still intact, the rider’s form and the horses’ bucking and moves are judged for a score. This is the oldest event of rodeo.

BAREBACK RIDING – This event is similar to Saddle Bronc Riding except that the cowboy rides the horse without a saddle and uses a special rope rigging instead. Judging is conducted the same way as in Saddle Bronc Riding.

Bullrider getting dumped off a bull at a rodeoBULL RIDING – In this event, the cowboy must ride a huge horned bucking bull for 8 seconds. If the rider is still atop the bull When the 8 seconds has elapsed the rider’s form and the horsesf bucking and moves are judged for a score. Compared to broncs that typically buck straight and up and down, bulls will spin to the right or left while they’re bucking, making them extremely challenging to ride. This is the most popular event at rodeos and also the most dangerous. Todays bullriders wear protective vests and many of the competitors ride with helmets designed to protect the head and face.

STEER WRESTLING – In this event, the competitor leaps from a galloping horse onto a steer and twist its head so it falls to the ground. The objective is to get all four legs pointing in the same direction in the shortest amount of time. This event is also known as Bull Dogging.

TIE-DOWN ROPING – Also known as calf roping, this event is derived from the working cowboy’s speed and agility at roping a calf on horseback, dismounting, and tying the animal down for branding and/or doctoring. The object of this event in a rodeo is to tie three of the calf’s four legs in the shortest amount of time.

TEAM ROPING – In this timed event for a team of two, one cowboy ropes a steer around the horns after which the other cowboy must rope both of the steers back legs — in the shortest time possible, of course!

BARREL RACING – In this timed event for women, the object is to circle three barrels in a coverleaf pattern in the shortest amount of time. Typically, winning times are the 17-18 second range.

Barrel racer

Rodeo Events Calendar for Northern New Mexico

June 20 – 21: Raton PRCA Rodeo. Co-sanctioned rodeo at the Jim Young Arena, Raton.
NBHA sanctioned barrel racing event. For information, visit or

June 20 – 22: Lasso del Norte, Santa Fe Trail Events Center, Las Vegas, New Mexico.
A USTRC team roping at theFor information:

June 27 – 28: Showdown N’ Old Abiquiu, Abiquiu, New Mexico, Rio Arriba County Fairgrounds
Co-sanctioned rodeo in Abiquiu. For information:

June 28: NBHA Show, McGee Park, Highway 64 between Farmington and Bloomfield.
NBHA sanctioned barrel racing event. For information, visit or

June 28 – 29: Rodeo de Taos Taos County Sheriff’s Posse Grounds, Taos, New Mexico
Co-sanctioned rodeo at the Taos County Rodeo Grounds, Camino de la Merced, Taos. Parade through town before the rodeo on Saturday starts at 10 a.m. Rodeo begins at 2 p.m. For more information (800) 732-8267 or Stock provider: Nunn’s Frontier Rodeo Company

July 4: Maverick Club Rodeo, Cimarron, New Mexico
The 4th of July Maverick Club Rodeo in Cimarron, New Mexico, is the longest running open rodeo in the West . It’s been held continuously for more than seven decades since the first event was held on July 4, 1923. Roping, barrel racing, bull riding, wild cow milking, and a wild horse race are among its most popular events. There is a town parade before the rodeo along Highway 64 starting at 9am.

July 4-5: 72nd Annual Rabbit Ear Round-up Rodeo, Clayton, New Mexico
A two-day Tough Bull Event from Professional Stock Contractor, Jeff Lee, at the Union County Rodeo Arena in Clayton. Evening Performance begins at 7:00 pm

July 12 NBHA Show. McGee Park, Highway 64 between Farmington and Bloomfield
NBHA sanctioned barrel racing event. For information, visit or

July 18 -19: Jicarilla Apache Little Beaver Celebration and Rodeos, Dulce, New Mexico
Pro Indian and open rodeos at Dulce include a pow-wow, parade, carnival, pony express run, 5k run, fun walk, youth events, plus much more. For information:

July 24: Fourth Annual Harding County Ranch Rodeo, Harding County Fairgournd, Roy, New Mexico
Events include cow sorting, cow milking, branding, trailer loading and doctoring of animals. Along with the ranch rodeo, there will be an open bronc riding event. The rodeo starts with a series of bronc riding at 10 a.m.,, followed by the ranch rodeo itself, then a second section of bronc riding. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children. This year’s Harding County Ranch Rodeo will have 15 teams, plus 20 riders in open bronc riding. While entries are full for the ranch rodeo, more entrants are sought for the bronc riding, for which the entry fee is $150. Along with the rodeo, there will be vendor booths available, as well as a concession stand provided by 4-H.

July 26: NBHA Show. McGee Park, Highway 64 between Farmington and Bloomfield
NBHA sanctioned barrel racing event. For information, visit or

August 2: Maverick Ranch Rodeo Cimarron, New Mexico
A sanctioned WRCA rodeo. Working ranch rodeos are different that PRCA rodeoa in that competitors are real working ranch cowboys (or cowgirls) from different ranches who compete on teams of four. Events include: ranch bronc riding, wild cow milking, ranch team sorting, team doctoring, and team branding. This PDF provides a description and working ranch rodeo events and rules. For more information about this event, call Randy Chambers 325.668-5350

August 2-4: San Juan County Fair, Horse Show and NBHA Barrel Racing, San Juan County Fairgrounds
The largest county fair in New Mexico features livestock shows, exhibits, fiddlers contest, a parade, arts & crafts, vendors booths, live music performances and more. Open Horse Show starts at Noon on Saturday August 3rd and at 8 a.m. on Sunday. NBHA sactioned barrel racing starts at 5 p.m.on Sunday. The San Juan County Fairgrounds are located at McGhee Park on Highway 64 between Farmington and Bloomfield.

August 4-10: Colfax County Fair and Rodeo , Springer, New Mexcio.
Theme this Year: Everyone’s a Winner at the Colfax County Fair

August 6- 8: San Miguel/Mora County Fair and Gymkhana, Las Vegas, New Mexico
Livestock show and sale, indoor exhibits featuring sewing, gardening, and baking; judging of steers, lambs, goats, poultry, and rabbits. Plus a Gymkhana (horse play day for youth 20 years old and under) and a chile cook-off.

August 8-10: Los Alamos County Fair and Rodeo – Los Alamos, New Mexico
This annual county fair culminates with a rodeo starting at 2 pm on Saturday, August 9th and at 1 pm on Sunday at Brewer Arena. Call 505-662-2656 for more information.

Aug. 9, 10: Chama Days. Gallegos Park, Chama, New Mexico
Chama Days is co-sponsored rodeo and WPRA roping at Gallegos Park. Events include softball, a fair with food vendors, more. For information:

August 13 – 16: Union County Fair & 4-H Horse Show, Clayton, New Mexico
This annual county fair in Clayton includes various 4-H booths and exhibitors including photography, quilting, leather crafts, baking, etc, FFA livestock judging and a 4H Horse Show. For more information call 505-374-9361.
Description: full of family fun including a pie eating contest, watermelon eating contest, barbecue, live music, pet parade, cake walk, livestock show, juried art, quilt show, commercial and educational booths and, of course, a livestock show and auction.

August 23: NBHA Show, McGee Park, Highway 64 between Farmington and Bloomfield
NBHA sanctioned barrel racing event. For information, visit or

September 6: NBHA Show. McGee Park, Highway 64 between Farmington and Bloomfield.
NBHA sanctioned barrel racing event. For information, visit or

Related Post