By Veeda Ware
The pounding of hooves echo vibrations of anticipation on the dirt floor as time freezes seconds into years.
Shouts of, “Ride ”em cowgirl!” fill the stands and a single “Whooee!” closes the ride.
Moments like these make all the blood, sweat and tears of rodeo training worth it, said Kay Blandford, professional barrel racer, from Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Blandford, an 11-time national finalist, said all her training pays off in the few exhilarating seconds in the arena.
“Turning professional didn”t come easy,” Blandford said. “I had to work my way up. But I love every hard-earned second of it.”
Darlene Kasper of Bertram, Texas, is on her fourth year as a professional barrel racer.
Kasper started racing professionally after she supported her daughter in the rodeo.
“I put her through school, and she got married,” Kasper said. “Then I thought to myself, shoot. I can do this too.”
Kasper said the hardest part of the rodeo, besides being away from her husband on the road, is keeping her horse, Tally, conditioned.
“Time in the trailer ride is harder on Tally than actually training,” she said. “We go on long trots so he doesn”t feel cooped up, and I try to exercise on the road and run as well.”
Physical preparation isn”t the only training in rodeo competition. Horsemanship and riding skills are also a large contribution.
Training a horse is one of the most important parts of the rodeo, Blandford said.
“You have a special relationship with your horse,” she said. “I believe in him, and he believes in me.”
Kasper said, “You need to invest and spend quality time with your horse. We work on increasing speed, barrel patterns. It”s a lot of repetition.”
Dave McConnell, a BYU alumnus from Alpine, partnered up with Gregg Orr, a truck driver from Highland, to participate in the wild cow milking event.
The two took first place on July 19 in the Days of ”47 Rodeo at the Delta Center.
Wild cow milking has a team of two men, a “roper/milker” who rides a horse and ropes the cow, and a “mugger” who wrestles the cow down after it”s been roped.
“You have to be gutless and not scared of cows pounding into you,” McConnell said. “We both grew up on dairy farms, so we”re used to the challenge.”
Orr said in order to participate in any rodeo event you need to be quick on your feet and your horse.
“You need to make sure you have a good horse no matter what you do,” he said. “They need to be trained, not be scared of the other animals, to stop after you rope them, to follow your command.”
Orr said it was exciting for the both of them to be a part of the rodeo.
“This is our version of Fear Factor or Extreme Sports,” McConnell said.
Orr said, “Being out there in the arena with all the excitement going on is an adrenaline rush.”
The excitement of the rodeo keeps rodeo participants physically fit, he said.
“It”s great to be so active in our late 40s,” said McConnell. “It”s like our cowboy version of drugs. Being out there is the ultimate high.”