My Pretty Pony

January 26th, 2013

When I was little kid, a trip to the grocery store meant investing a dime of my allowance for a ride on the beautiful buckskin pony with the black and “silver” saddle out front.  I loved that horse and even years later when I got my first job at that store as a carry-out girl, one of my various “other duties as assigned” was keeping the horse clean and it was a task that I thoroughly enjoyed!  Fast forward, er, well, a few years, and being blonde, I was the prime target for the infamous joke about the blonde who fell from her horse, got her foot caught in the stirrup and was nearly beaten to death!  Then, just in the nick of time, the manager of the store unplugged the horse! 


So with all of this mechanized horse background, you can imagine my delight at The Ride Guys booth at Cowboy Christmas.  The restored mechanical coin operated horses were simply magnificent.  Shiny and beautiful with new tack, they cried out for riders.  I was sorely tempted, but didn’t want to embarrass Mark and Gretchen.  I managed to just stroke them and admire their glossy loveliness.

It did give me an idea though.  A number of friends who I have invited to come to T Cross beg off saying they just don’t do horses.  Many relate a terrifying childhood experience that has caused them to be deathly afraid; others have never been around horses and find their size intimidating.  What better way to introduce them to the wonderful world of horses than giving them a ride on “Champion” or “Trigger” where they would never have to leave the relative safety of the office porch!!  Wranglers could give their initial lesson on this semi-stationary mount thus building confidence so the new rider could advance to the real thing in one easy step!




Mark was skeptical so I reckon I’ll just have to save my pennies and buy one of these little beauties for myself someday.  You’re never too old to go for a ride on one of these, so if the time ever comes that I can’t throw a leg over a real horse, I can still enjoy the rhythm and joy of riding in the safety of my living room!  Of course, I’ll need a spotter to pull the plug.  Just in case.



Mark Gets a Booticure

January 19th, 2013

Last week I told y’all about Cowboy Christmas and how much fun it was to shop and see amazing things!  One amazing sight happened during a shopping break.  As you enter the venue, there is a line of stations where you can get your boots polished!  I took advantage early in the day to have Lori put a fresh shine on my dress boots.  She was very nice and very thorough and made my boots look brand new! 

Polished boots or shoes are a necessity ingrained from my youth.  I earned extra money keeping my Dad’s #15’s maintained in a state of perpetual gloss!  As a result, I notice people’s shoes and often am dismayed at the lack of care some take about the appearance of their footwear.  There are sayings like “dull shoes counteract polished resumes”, “shoes are like your business card” and “shoes make the man” thus supporting my belief that one cannot ignore the condition of their shoes.

So, I noticed that Mark had a less than stellar appearance due to the fact his boots appeared to have just come out of the cow pen.  I suggested to Mark that he take advantage of this opportunity to spruce up his boots.  He contemplated his boots and seemingly did not see why he needed to do anything.  I tried to point out the relative difference between my boots and his boots and pointed to Lori who had done mine saying she would be able to make his boots look good too.  Well, you would’ve thought I was asking Mark to go get a pedicure or something.  So I tried a different tact; if he likes the boots and they are the most comfortable boots he owns, then he needs to take care of them so they’ll last!  I could tell that was beginning to sway him a little.  My final card was that it would make a great story for the blog.  He finally agreed to take the stand and allow Lori to work her magic. 

That said, I am quite certain Mark contemplated my demise at least once during this process.  But, being the good sport that he is, he cowboyed up and toughed it out.

Lori assured me that she could make Mark’s boots look good again, but even she wrinkled her nose at some of the, uh, er, “matter” coating Mark’s boots in spots.  She pressed on and by virtue of sprays, creams and elbow grease, she did indeed make Mark’s boots look like something a guy in Vegas with a black Stetson hat and pressed Wrangler’s ought to be wearing!  We all oohed and ahhed over his amazing “new” boots. 






Mark looked at them and expressed his long held fear that these boots were going to spook the cows when he went to feed them.   Sigh.  Well, at least they looked nice for the plane ride home.

Shop ‘Til You Drop

January 12th, 2013


In conjunction with the NFR, an event called Cowboy Christmas is held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Featuring vendors representing every aspect of western life, it was all I could do to contain myself and not melt down my credit card!  There are “stores” with tack ranging from the basic to fancy headstalls and saddles, and others with silver bits, spurs and other bling for the cowboy or cowgirl who was nice during the year!  There are a wide variety of vendors with shirts, coats, dresses and the latest in western style clothing.  And there are shops with nothing but wild rags; shops with jewelry, pottery and stuff made out of lassos; and, a lot of shops featuring western art work.   I was perusing the paintings in one such booth and kept looking at this man who I figured out was the artist.  My next connection was that the paintings featured a lot of the characters and scenes from Gunsmoke; being ever alert, I finally realized the artist was Buck Taylor who played the character Newly on that series.  How cool is that??? 

Shopping Show and Tell

You can buy signs, fencing, furniture, tractors, baling machines, livestock feeders, guns, dishes, and the list goes on and on and on.  I was able to find a set of 9 foot roping reins that I’d been searching high and low for as well as a horse hair “git down” rope.  This amused Mark no end.  He had never heard of such a thing and questioned my cowgirlness until I showed him that the tag actually labeled it a “git down rope”.  I informed him that I would show him one day how it worked and then he’d have to get himself one next year at Cowboy Christmas!

Back in one corner they have a small arena set up and various demonstrations are held throughout the day.  Because it’s small, you can get really up close and personal with the cowboys and/or cowgirls giving the demonstration.  As I was wandering around in a shopping daze, I happened to smell horses, and naturally followed my nose!  I noted that a cowboy was in the arena with 5 horses and appeared to be getting ready to do something so I decided to have a seat in the little bleachers they had set up and take a break from spending!

Guy McLean’s Grand Finale

Boy, was I happy I did!  For the next half hour, Guy McLean who is an Australian horse trainer held the audience in the palm of his hand as he worked his magic with his five equine friends.  He was a mounted drill team with only one rider as they did pinwheels and various maneuvers with Guy mounted and signaling the others with a stick and string.  He was able to place his hand on a horse’s head and it would stay in that spot.  He placed four horses in different configurations around the arena and then did maneuvers on his mount including a mock barrel race!  As he performed he kept up a constant patter in that marvelous Aussie accent describing what he was doing and also filling the audience in on the character of each horse and their history with him.  At one point he actually cantered his horse backwards 3 strides; he noted there are only 5 horses in the world that can do this.  This same horse also performed lead changes in a diagonal across the arena; I think it was over 40 which was incredible. He moved from that horse to one with no saddle or bridle and with just the string from his stick around the horse’s neck performed a number of exercises. For his grand finale, he signaled one horse to lie down then side passed the horse on which he was mounted to move over top of it.  Then one by one he signaled the other horses to move over by him so there was one horse on each side of him; then he stood on top of the horse and skillfully cracked two stock whips all around.  The horses barely blinked.  To say the least, I was awe struck; he actually moved me to tears a couple of times.  Needless to say, I came home thinking I needed to really step up my game with my horses!!

…as the shopper’s rushed home with their treasures!

They also have music acts that come perform at Cowboy Christmas and there are also booths of a more educational interest on a variety of topics.  If you like western stuff, make sure you plan to spend the day at Cowboy Christmas when you come to the NFR.  All of the people you buy presents for will be glad you did!


A big thank you to Carol Kitch for taking pictures all day long!


January 5th, 2013

Cowboy’s on Parade!
Photo by Carol Kitch

Many of you have attended the Dubois Friday Night Rodeo while visiting T Cross and there are a good number of us who actually participated in an event like the ribbon pull!  It’s always a lot of fun.  Growing up in western Colorado my family made the rounds of the rodeos throughout the summer and once in a while a western slope cowboy or cowgirl would hit the big time and make it all the way to National Finals Rodeo which is the culmination of a year’s competing for professional rodeo folk.  Originally held in Oklahoma City, it has been held for the past number of years in Las Vegas!  It is something I have always wanted to go to but never had the opportunity, so this year when Gretchen asked if I’d like to tag along with her and Mark, I leapt at the chance!

Wyoming cowboy J.R. Verzain in the bareback bronc competition
AP Photo-Julie Jacobson

The NFR runs for 10 days and is held at the Thomas Mack Center which is just a short jaunt from the famed Strip.  The cowboys and cowgirls competing are the best at their events having been giving the nod for NFR by virtue of winnings accumulated over the year.  Likewise, the rodeo stock is the best with a number of stock contractors bringing their best bucking horses and rankest bulls all competing for best bucking horse, bucking bull, and stock contractor of the year.  And, as you might expect, at this level, the money and prizes are worth the effort!  The NFR is run with winners each night for each event and then for the grand finale the best all round cowboy is named which is the one with the most dollars earned, and also for the cowboy with the best average in each event over the course of the NFR.  Similarly, the cowgirls who compete in the barrel racing have the chance to win each night, and the winner of the average wins the barrel racing competition for the NFR, and the cowgirl with the most earnings wins Barrel Racing Champion of the year!

Unlike the rodeos that brought them here, the NFR is all about the competition and there is not much fluff.  No half-time events featuring mounted drill teams or clown acts, no mutton busting, ribbon pulls or breakaway roping.  Everything from start to finish is as organized and professional as any I have ever witnessed.  Each event proceeds like clockwork; no chasing errant bulls or calves around for what seems like hours because the pickup men truly know their jobs.  I wonder if they are competing for something too?

A stirring opening with the Marine Corp Band
Photo by Carol Kitch

We attended two nights and on the second night the opening was special featuring the Marine Corp Band and recognition for each branch of the military.  This culminated with a pretty neat indoor fireworks display; not nearly as spectacular as the Mark Cardall event each July 4th mind you, but exciting none the less!


Sherry Cervi takes a tumble



The cowboys are so good at this level that there weren’t many buck-off’s.  They really make it look easy.  But on the good side, no body got hurt; not livestock or cowboys!  The closest call came on the first night we went during the barrel racing.  Sherry Cervi who was leading at that point came smoking around the first barrel, and was rounding the second barrel in similar fashion when her horse Stingray lost his footing and fell with her.  He then rocked back and forth several times (with her under him) before he got his feet back under him.  Then, as she lay there in the dirt, he proceeded to the third barrel in an amazing act of training and habit before he realized there was no one aboard urging him “home”.  Sherry walked out under her own power, and being a tough cookie she competed the next night although on a different horse.

Mary Walker rides Latte to a big win!

The second night’s go round winner in barrel racing was Mary Walker and she wound up being named Barrel Racing Champion of 2012 having earned the most money.  Her story is amazing.  Her son was killed in a car accident in 2011. She focused on barrel racing as she put her life back together after such a loss.  She acquired her horse Latte and knew this was a partner that could get her to the big time.  She was well on her way when he fell with her during a competition breaking her hip, pelvis two vertebrae and some toes.  It took months of recovery before she could ride, and then it took her some time to get the confidence back to go full throttle.  Her husband is a champion steer wrestler, but he set aside his aspirations to help his wife realize her dream.  So a year after her near career ending disaster, she took the big prize!  I was thrilled to be able to see her compete.  She was awesome and an inspiration!

Oklahoma cowboy Hunter Herrin misses the loop…and the money
AP Photo-Julie Jacobson

The roping events were also exciting!  I love team roping and these guys were sensational!  Times of 3.3 seconds were winning the rounds!  The tie down roping was also good; watching the horses and how well trained they are always gives me a thrill.  The nights that we attended the cowboys were a bit fumble fingered and there were a few missed loops; without these instances you would not appreciate the degree of difficulty and the years of training and practice that goes into being a champion roper.

If you like or just appreciate rodeo, you must put the NFR on your bucket list!

Next week I will tell you all about the Cowboy Christmas event at NFR!










Rodeo Events for Dummies: Bull Riding

April 27th, 2011
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I sometimes find myself wondering, “Why exactly would someone do that?” But for many, bull riding is the premier rodeo event.

Here’s what happens. Before the competition even starts, the riders and bulls are matched randomly. Each bull has a unique name and number and are each judged to be of good strength, health, agility, and age.

Once the event begins, a rider mounts a bull and grips a flat braided rope. After he secures a good grip on the rope, the rider nods to signal he is ready. The bucking chute (a small enclosure, which opens from the side) is opened and the bull storms out into the arena. This is where I start holding my breath.

The rider must attempt to stay on the bull for at least eight seconds, while only touching the bull with his riding hand. His other hand must remain free for the entire ride.

The bull bucks, rears, kicks, spins, and twists in an effort to throw the rider off. This continues for a number of seconds until the rider bucks off or dismounts after completing his ride. A loud buzzer acknowledges the completion of an eight second ride. Exhale.

[youtube=]Throughout the ride, bullfighters, also known as “rodeo clowns” stay near the bull aiding the rider if necessary. When the ride ends, either intentionally or otherwise, the bullfighters distract the bull to protect the rider from harm.

After the cowboy picks himself up and exits the arena, the bull is guided out as well. The ride is then scored from 0-100 points. Both the rider and the bull are awarded points. There are usually two judges, each judge scoring the bull from 0-25 points, and the rider from 0-25 points. The combined point totals from both judges make up the final score for the ride.

Scores of zero are actually quite common as a lot of riders lose control of the animal almost immediately after the bull rages out of the bucking chute. Many experienced professionals are able to gain scores of 75 or more. A score above 80 is considered excellent, and a score in the 90s exceptional.

When you join us this summer at the T Cross, we never miss the Friday Night Rodeo in Dubois. By the time you leave, you’ll be able to boast to your coworkers and friends how incredible (or incredibly scary) the bull riding rodeo event was for you and your family. Book today!