It’s a full day of dust, sweat and horses. But these kids — and their supportive families — can’t think of a better way to spend a summer Saturday.
The Clements Buckaroos Junior Rodeo was held all day at the Clements Stampede grounds off of Highway 88. Nearly 250 kids from age 3 to 18 were decked out in Wrangler jeans, crisp, long-sleeved shirts and pristine cowboy hats that went flying as competitors bolted through the arena.
Many families drove in on Friday and stayed in trailers so they would not miss a single event. A few are running the Northern California circuit and will compete every weekend all summer.
Nicole Walter sold necklaces from a vendor booth on the hill. She watched with a keen eye as the teenage girls ran the breakaway event. Girls sped out of the starter box on horseback after a calf and swung a lasso over its head. Once it was secured, they let it run through.
“Even these girls roping now will go to college and compete; some are eager to go pro. They’ll make a career of it,” Walter said.
Others competed in barrel racing, calf roping and tying, bull and steer riding, plus other events that might not be as familiar.
Colby Green, an 11-year-old from Lincoln, competes in chute dogging. He starts on the ground in a chute with a huge steer and must wrestle it to the ground less than 10 feet from the starting line.
He says it’s not easy.
“You have to know what you’re doing,” he said.
Green practices at home with his palomino horse — named Peanut — and the family’s goats, steers and calves. He competes in family rodeos with his cousins, who live just across the road.
Saturday was his first time back in competition after a three-year break. He stopped competing at age 7, but came back after watching his older brother and cousins have so much fun.
“The most exciting part? Waiting in the box for the gate to open,” he said. Then it’s go time.
Green’s grandmother, Lorraine Peddler, always worries that her grandkids will get hurt.
“But it’s worth it when they do well and they’re happy,” she said.
Savanna Morgan and her twin sister Hunter practice for four hours a day in Loomis with their trainer. Both girls have dust under their fingernails.
Savanna Morgan admits her sister might be a little better than she is, but that’s because the girl in a black cowboy hat with a big red flower just got two new quarterhorses. Both compete in barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying and single stake.
In pole bending, six tall poles are lined up, and a horse and rider must weave through them. Single stake calls for a horse and rider to bolt out to a post, round it and sprint back. All events are timed.
Five-year-old Maddie Parsons of Turlock was relaxing in a lawn chair after competing in barrel racing, calf roping and goat tying. She may be small, but she can tie up a goat all on her own.
She practices at home with her horse, Himmy, and goes out almost every day.
“I like to do what my dad does,” she said. “I can do it and do it, every single day.”