The 7 Habits of a Grateful Rodeo Kid

Our first rodeo of the year for the 2018/19 season has come and gone.

As many of you who are part of my inner circle know (mostly because I have honored my wife’s request to stop writing about her) things have been getting harder here at the Blue Sky Ranch. Rodeo almost didn’t happen for us this year. Finances have been miserably tough, our horses haven’t gotten the love and attention they deserves and my plate is soooooo full that even helping my children has fallen to the wayside.

I feel many days I am failing miserably as a father, a son, a friend, a mentor, a rancher, a fireman, and well pretty much at life. At one point I contemplated selling it all, just to remove some of the strains and pressures associated with being the caregiver to an terminally ailing spouse.

But then a moment came where I was reminded of something my father taught me in his oh so confrontational way. God rest his soul..

I could feel him looking me dead in the eye and yelling (yes, he could only communicate in two ways- yelling and laughing) Son god damn it! Whats right is right and whats wrong is wrong, so always do whats right and you’ll never be wrong with yourself. And remember you can lay there and cry about it or get off your ass and do something.

Well I got off my ass. I asked for help and it was received, I got the rig together and quit pacifying the kids, forcing them out into the barn (an area I have been neglecting because of the wife and injury to myself) I got them back on their horses and practicing, hard. As we pulled out heading to the first rodeo of the year I was nervous for them, all of them. My kids, my friends kids, kids I hadn’t even met. Why? Because as I was so reminded this weekend. WE are one BIG family. I couldn’t believe that for a moment I thought about leaving them because of life’s hardships.

There is no other sport in the world like rodeo. The National Anthem plays and silence falls over thousands in an instant, kids loping their horses stop, remove hats and hang heads. Parents greet everyone with a good morning and a smile, whether you know one another or not, and all of us, kids, competitors, parents and visitors cheer each other on with words of encouragement, excitement and amazement at what each and everyone of these athletes (horses, kids and adults) can do. We all start the day with an Amen.

This last weekend inspired me to re-post something I wrote two years ago. It came from my heart, it came from years of failure, try and grit. It came from watching kids over and over again works their asses off, fail and come out of the arena with a smile. It came from failing and having my own children remind me of the many pearls of wisdom I had bestowed on them over the years.

After reading it again today, I pray this is my legacy. My children’s legacy and their children’s legacy. If we can keep this attitude and drive moving forward years after we are gone, regardless of what society deems or pushes upon us, then we as parents have succeeded.

So with that, here it is.

Thanks dad, I know we didn’t always get along, but I miss you……..

THE 7 HABITS OF A GRATEFUL RODEO KID

So what exactly is rodeo?

Rodeo

The American English word “rodeo” is taken directly from Spanish rodeo ([roˈðe.o]), which roughly translates into English as “round up

Rodeo is a competitive sport that arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later Central America, the United States, Canada, South America, Australia and New Zealand. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States, western Canada, and northern Mexico. Today it is a sporting event that involves horses and other livestock, designed to test the skill and speed of the cowboys and cowgirls. American style professional rodeos generally comprise the following events: tie-down roping, team roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding, bull riding and barrel racing. The events are divided into two basic categories: the rough stock events and the timed events. Depending on sanctioning organization and region, other events such as breakaway roping, goat tying, or pole bending may also be a part of some rodeos.

Many rodeo events were based on the tasks required by cattle ranching. The working cowboy developed skills to fit the needs of the terrain and climate of the American west, and there were many regional variations. The skills required to manage cattle and horses date back to the Spanish traditions of the vaquero.

Early rodeo-like affairs of the 1820s and 1830s were informal events in the western United States and northern Mexico with cowboys and vaqueros testing their work skills against one another.[9][10] Following the American Civil War, rodeo competitions emerged, with the first held in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1872.[10] Prescott, Arizona claimed the distinction of holding the first professional rodeo, as it charged admission and awarded trophies in 1888.[11] Between 1890 and 1910, rodeos became public entertainment, sometimes combined Wild West shows featuring individuals such as Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, and other charismatic stars.[10] By 1910, several major rodeos were established in western North America, including the Calgary Stampede, the Pendleton Round-Up, and the Cheyenne Frontier Days.

Rodeo-type events also became popular for a time in the big cities of the Eastern United States, with large venues such as Madison Square Garden playing a part in popularizing them for new crowds. There was no standardization of events for a rodeo competition until 1929, when associations began forming.

In the 1970s, rodeo saw unprecedented growth. Contestants referred to as “the new breed” brought rodeo increasing media attention. These contestants were young, often from an urban background, and chose rodeo for its athletic rewards. By 1985, one third of PRCA members had a college education and one half of the competitors had never worked on a cattle ranch.[12] Today, some professional rodeos are staged in large, air-conditioned arenas; offer large purses, and are often telecast. Many other professional rodeos are held outside, under the same conditions of heat, cold, dust or mud as were the original events.

Wikipedia

I have always preached being grateful as an adult and I believe that comes from a tempered or aged wisdom which allows adults to see what the youthful eye cannot. For when we are young it is very easy to become self-centered; forgetting the where, why and how of it all. Believing there is only one person in the universe that matters and that person is yourself. Parents often times inadvertently help with this self-absorption. Creating often times a very self-centered child by constantly praising their failures, awarding them for mediocre performances while never allowing them to work hard after recovering from the sting of defeat. These parents will purchase the newest greatest next horse at the drop of a hat without any consideration the horse may not be the problem, but the child themselves. As a parent, in my opinion constantly bowing to the child whenever things don’t go their way is a set course for disaster! This often leads to a rodeo athlete who doesn’t understand just how lucky they are to be where they are, doing what they are doing, all why relying on a partner who speaks no English, knows nothing of what the game plan is other than a learned skill and has no way to say afterwards; Hey dude that wasn’t me this time it was all you! Hence the ungratefulness and emotional meltdowns ensue.

I will constantly tell a child to smile while leaving the arena, no matter the outcome! A simple reminder that this run you made was the luckiest thing you could have done today! Who else gets to do these amazing things on horseback in front of a cheering crowd? Who else but you and your closest friends? You have already beaten the odds by even being here! Smile! Smile big! You practiced and this time it didn’t work out, but next time it will! Just remain grateful and keep working hard.

I tell my children no matter how you did, get up, knock the dust off and smile! People always remember the kid who gave it their all with a smile on their face! You can be mad at yourself, mad at the run, hell even mad at your horse because yes, even though I also always preach look at yourself first before being angry at the horse, horses have bad days too! But wait until you are out of the arena, away from everyone else before you let any evil out of the jar!! Take a few minutes, compose yourself and remember you participated and did something most people only dream about. Hell most parents envy you a little because we can no longer compete! So you did something most people don’t get to do and your parents secretly envy you? Yeah I’d say that is pretty freaking cool!

One day coming out of the cutting pen my son reminded me of just how important my own words had become by throwing them right back into my face. I had worked hard during the winter on getting my horse just right. I strolled slowly into the herd as confident as I had ever been. I knew what cattle I wanted, my horse was supple and relaxed, Hell as far as I was concerned they should have already written the check out to me! After pulling my first cow out for a clean cut, I dropped my hand, sat back, turned out my toes and completely relaxed. This was going to be a kick ass run. In the end it was an; I got my ass kicked run. Nothing and I mean nothing went right after the second or third jump and I ended up schooling my mare. Instead of winning the round, I walked out with a zero.

As I passed through the gate, angry as hell, dejected and wanting to punch something (I am a little competitive) my son said; Great job dad! Smile! Who else gets to go out and do what you just did!

My son Jake, teaching the father. I smiled because I was in fact grateful. Grateful God had placed him there to remind me which made me grateful for the opportunity to try.

And with that little story here are my 7 habits of a grateful Rodeo kid/participant

  1. Always thankful to God. We get up each morning and from the minute we pull our boots on we should be counting the many blessings put before us. Riding rough stock, training and riding horses, learning to rope, steer wrestle, goat tie and chute dog, takes time and skill. Thank God each and every day for the gift of life, the ability to thrive for everything you have achieved or will achieve. Thank God for the ability to fail! For failures are what eventually leads to improvement and a solid winning attitude.
  2. See’s the run in their head. You have practiced it, you have done it a million times the right way at home. Enjoy the very moment coming before you by closing your eyes and seeing yourself completing an amazing run, rope a steer perfectly, or wrestle a steer to the ground with ease. Riding bulls or Broncs? Who is your favorite rider, picture yourself making the very same ride your hero has, using the very same technique and effort! Enjoy this moment and use the power of your mind to see the perfection locked inside.
  3. Helps someone every single chance you get. Rodeo is a giant family and somewhere, someday you might need help in return. Always sharing knowledge you have gained, what you’ve seen while comparing notes you have taken. A truly grateful rodeo athlete knows that by helping others you are raising the competitive bar and that makes for a better rodeo all the way around. Be the first to congratulate another competitor when they have done well, always have an encouraging word, share a smile, a pat on the back, a high five! Your support will be returned tenfold, I promise!
  4. Always remains humble. Rodeo athletes who come across as entitled just don’t get it. They aren’t thankful, grateful and their attitude can bring about resentment and hate. Remain humble, honest and true to the values your parents gave you. Honesty, good sportsmanship, empathy and desire to be the best (best partner, contestant, coach, friend etc.) Buckles are great, money is awesome but those things should never define who YOU are. Remember you are only as good as your last run.
  5. Listens, listens, listens. You are never too good to take advice. The learning process never ends and someday when you are older you will hopefully feel the desire to pass everything you learned to another, whether it be your own children or clients. Remember to treat others the way you expect to be treated and that sometimes means to listen more and talk less..
  6. Treats ALL animals as if they were their own! You cannot compete without livestock! Don’t treat your horses, cattle and goats like a piece of machinery to be fueled, worked and thrown in a garage never to be seen until the next rodeo. Be grateful for their existence and abilities. Care for them like they were family because in some cases if you are really lucky that is exactly what they become. I have seen many of the meanest bucking bulls in the arena act like little puppies loving on their human for some ear scratching outside the arena! These animals truly love their jobs when treated right and in the end there is no greater bond than a grateful child and their horse.
  7. Continually thanking everyone that helped you along the way. Your parents, grandparents and even in some cases your brothers and sisters, they spent countless hours getting you where you needed to be when you needed to be there. Trainers, horses, cattle, ropes, saddles, tack, everything you need mom, dad and even sponsors did their best to make it happen. Nothing says you are a grateful human being like showing gratitude for the sacrifices these people all made so that you could ride into an arena, good, bad or otherwise and ride out with a smile on your face.

There you have it! How I feel our children should approach this great American sport. I know my children hear this all the time. It starts from the minute I remind them to remove their hats during the national anthem and continues until the moment they are asleep in the truck during our long ride home.

Our children should dream big! Shoot for the stars! But at the end of the day where ever they end up, these days here at rodeo with friends will be some of the best, most memorable days of their lives. Why not help by building a solid foundation that will lead them out into this world with a grateful attitude, a love for the sport win or lose and god in their back pocket? It can only bring them success in life.

Let’s go, lets show, lets rodeo!!!

 

 

 

 

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The little horse with a big heart..

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He was small, stout, nervous and had the type of heartwarming personality most people would kill to exude. When he walked across the roadway from one ranch to another we knew right away he was something very special.

As with all things special, he came with a story.

My son had been desperately searching for a good rope horse. As rodeo was progressing so were his roping skills and a good sound horse was on the agenda. One day at a cutting my neighbor saw me from across the parking lot, we made eye contact and he headed my way. A solid handshake and hello was followed with; I heard your son is looking for a horse? I said yes and he went on to tell me about this gelding he had that hadn’t made it as a cutter but had so much personality and drive my neighbor just couldn’t let him go. The problem? This horse needed a job. It was killing my neighbor to see such a wonderful horse with so much to give doing nothing and if my son was interested, after a test ride or two we may be able to strike a deal.

Of course I smiled, it sounded very promising and I said we would be over that week to take a look.

We walked across the road one afternoon and after the cordial hello’s, an introduction to the horse and a few laps around the indoor arena it was apparent these two were going to get along. My son was smiling from ear to ear riding this flashy paint gelding with an obvious personality twice his size. My neighbor was smiling too.

It was time for the deal making.

My neighbor helped the boy untack the horse and then pulled him aside. With a stern look on his face he proceeded to list the good, the bad and the ugly as all good horsemen should because no horse is truly perfect. Afterword’s it was time to negotiate a price. My son asked timidly how much for such a fine horse. My neighbor replied $5 dollars. Shocked my son repeated this monetary demand ensuring he’d heard it right! Yes this horse was being sold to my son, on this day only for the amazing sum of $5 dollars! He was also being sold with a thirty day money back guarantee! If for any reason my son changed his mind or decided the horse was too much animal he could simply walk said horse across the street, no strings attached and receive his $5 dollar bill back! Now after thirty days our neighbor made it very clear he would still take the horse back but he was keeping the $5 dollars.

My son ran across the street to gather his money and paid him promptly with a handshake and a gigantic, beaming smile.

Twoey set foot on our place and within minutes we all thought he was great. He seemed to be smiling and he acted as though he wanted to talk with you. Over the next year, hundreds of hours of practice and bonding between him and my son led us to know and understand just how great he really was.

Within two weeks we set out to get him into a great roping program with a well-known trainer. We loaded him up and dropped him off at the facility of our choice. After three weeks we received a phone call from the trainer. The call that morning was to initially let us know it just wasn’t working out. His nervousness, big engine and inability to focus were detrimental to becoming a rope horse. We of course also heard repeatedly just how sweet he could be and that everyone in the barn loved him! This was no shocker to us! But then something happened. On that very mornings practice everything clicked and the small, nervous horse with the giant engine and sweet disposition was repeatedly roping one steer after another. The trainer in a matter of hours had changed his mind and was requesting we keep him there a little longer.

When Twoey finally came home he pranced around our place like he was a Lipizzaner stallion! As though not only he knew he had accomplished something great but we all should bask in the glory of his accomplishments too! My son and he over the next month grew closer and closer and it didn’t take long before he could call Twoeys name and the horse would cover hill and dale to get at my boy. Lip quivering with excitement all the way.

Sometime later my neighbor ran into me again and asked how the horse was doing? I replied great, then explained all the training he’d undergone. My neighbor asked; how long did it take you to get him into a horse trailer? Shocked by the question I replied; I opened the door, said Twoey load up and pointed inside. Without hesitation the horse walked in and I closed the divider behind him. I had no idea he’d never, ever been in a trailer before. And just like that, there it was, the beauty of this horse. His mind always turning, thinking, he was willing to do anything to please you, to get a treat or a pet, he would literally do what ever it took to make you like him. He was a 1000 pound four hooved puppy dog that you just happened to be able to saddle and ride.

Not only was he taught to team rope or more precisely work in the role of a heel horse. But after a year on the ranch, my son also taught him to be a calf horse. He learned how to work cattle both in the pen and on the range, he roped, doctored and branded and he never, ever flinched. Not once.

Twoey also decided he really liked people. All people, and camera;s too! He was a super camera ham!! But he especially liked children. If he saw you near the fence he would always be the first to greet you, let you pet him and even give you a kiss. His nervous lip would always be quivering but it was his style and oh what an endearing style it was.

Four years later his paddock is right next to the house, he and his buddy Levi (the bulldogging horse) run around like mutt and jeff. They are inseparable. They travel to rodeos together, live together, eat together and look out for one another. Every time I see my son walking them from one paddock to another without halters, no worry as to whether or not they may leave him in the dust. Heads down, calm demeanors, moving alongside him like something straight out of a western, well it always makes me smile. Whenever I come home he is the very first horse I see and he will remind you he is there by knickering at you. If I’ve had a bad day, his quivering lips and kisses always make life just a little better.

Today at work I received the phone call no one who owns horses ever wants.

Twoeys hurt and it’s bad. You need to come home now!

Not knowing the situation I chose to wait until I got home and put my eyes on things before alerting my son who was at work. Yet as I pulled in the driveway a burgundy blur that is his F-250 flew by in a cloud of dust. No notification needed.

Walking into the barn I knew instantly it was bad, very, very bad. The long look on several faces as our borders gathered to help in any way was all I needed. Rounding the corner I see him, lip quivering, soaked in sweat, holding his left hind leg in the air while my son is squatted nearby holding his head in his hands. He knew it was bad too. Again, no words needed to be spoken.

Looking over my sons shoulder the picture became much clearer. A full avulsion from just under the Talus all the way down the leg to just above the Long pastern bone. Gone were the middle ligament and the lateral tendon, remaining was nothing but shredded skin and white, clean bone. It was so massive and mesmerizing I couldn’t believe this horse was even standing. My jaw was on the ground and the sheer size of this injury and the fact this horse was still upright wanting to be pet and kissed was boggling.

Our vet was out of town, several backups were called, but in the end UC Davis was notified and two vets were sent right away. Twoey’s lip quivered, his ears were up and forward, he licked his lips and looked as though he was wondering why everyone was making such a fuss over him. We gave him some medication to make him more comfortable and we waited. The dreadful long slow mind fucking wait!

During this time we found out he and Levi had somehow escaped, running through a fence while on their escapades. No one saw the accident or even how it happened. All anyone knew (including my daughter who saw them running about) was they were out and something just didn’t look right with Twoeys leg as he was running.

Our neighbor came over and assisted with his old horse. I was very glad to have him there, decisions needed to be made and it was comforting to have someone else to bounce things off. Twoey was surrounded by people who loved him and we did our best to keep him calm. My son was falling apart on the inside but very stoic on the outside. We both never said it, but each eye contact we made we knew the direction this was headed and it was tearing us both apart inside.

The vet arrived, several photographs were taken and consultations through the latest in technology led to only one plausible outcome for our dear sweet boy.

Today at 5:30 pm, under the old oak tree on our property our friend, my sons best friend, the face of our ranch after the passing of Tank (another story) and one of the smartest, sweetest horses I have ever known was laid to rest in tall green grass with those who loved him the most right by his side.

My son sat next to his head, stroking his mane and made direct eye contact with his buddy until the very last breath was taken. He and I hugged, we both cried.

Twoey was gone.

We gave my son some time alone with Twoey. There is a special bond between a boy and his horse, especially when that horse was the first one you ever trained for yourself, purchased with your own money, taught to come like a dog, give kisses only when asked and ride trail until there is no more trail to ride.

That horse loved him, believed in him and trusted him all the way till his very last breath. That is an amazing bond few youngsters from 13-17 will ever know.

When I came back after signing paperwork I rounded the corner headed towards the old oak tree just in time to see him. Sitting there on the ground, his arms around his horse and although I know he won’t admit it, he was crying. As a father it was the hardest thing to watch. It made my heart painfully, crushingly hurt and broke my spirit just a little more. Nothing in this world is more painful than the suffering of your own child. Nothing is more painful for a child than saying goodbye.

As I write this, I am in tears. Not for myself, not for Twoey as he feels no more pain, but for my son as he is going to feel lost and filled with anger and sadness for a while. Also for our family, I have two younger children who adored him and are in disbelief he is actually gone. I am also sad for our friends who knew Twoey through rodeo, interacted with him and all that knew what a sweet horse he was. I’m crying because our family is now missing an important stone in the foundation of our ranch.

Our boy is gone forever, this $5 dollar horse, the kind of horse and story no one believes until they see it for themselves. May he run heavens fields free, I hope he is with his old rodeo traveling partner Tank. Maybe Cooper is running alongside, barking and chasing his tail. May he know just how much we all loved and adored him? May my son rest easy soon and not dwell too hard on the tough decisions life brings. Even though they at times are dreadfully painful. His final words to me tonight were; this has been the worst day of my life.

I know deep inside, right now he is beating himself up thinking, just one more ride, why couldn’t I have had, just one more ride…..

Junior High National Finals Rodeo-Iowa 2014

 

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“Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear or a fool from any direction.” – old cowboy proverb author unknown

8 months spent practicing, working hard, traveling, keeping our horses and children healthy have all led to this one moment in time.  Jake and I standing in awe at the spectacle that is the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The Junior High National Finals Rodeo! A compilation, a cross-section, a melding of all the very best junior high students who have competed their hearts out in multiple divisions! Some have bested competitors and friends in several categories, some made here in only one, but they are here and ready to do battle!

Just so you understand why we are in “awe” here is a sample description of what our eyes behold, straight from the ISF web page. No better description could have been penned.

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The internationally acclaimed Iowa State Fair is the single largest event in the state of Iowa and one of the oldest and largest agricultural and industrial expositions in the country. Annually attracting more than a million people from all over the world, the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines is Iowa’s great celebration, a salute to the state’s best in agriculture, industry, entertainment and achievement. It is the true heartbeat of the Midwest, unequaled and reduplicated.

The Iowa State Fair, the inspiration for the original novel State Fair by Iowan Phil Stong, three motion pictures and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway musical, is without a doubt the country’s most famous state fair.

National media frequently rank the Fair as one of the top events in the country. In 2004, USA Weekend named the event the #2 choice for summer fun in America, topping New York City’s Times Square, Cedar Point Amusement Park Resort in Ohio and Disneyland in California.imagesIMG_0910

Midwest Living magazine named the Fair one of the “Top 30 Things Every Midwesterner Should Experience.” The Fair is also the only fair listed in The New York Times best-selling travel book, 1000 Places to See Before You Die, and the subsequent travel book, 1,000 Places to See in the U.S.A. and Canada Before you Die.

Iowa’s Fair is also known as “America’s classic state fair” because the event features all of the traditional activities associated with state fairs in a park-like, 450-acre setting (the Fair’s home since 1886). The grounds and the adjoining 160 acres of Campgrounds are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Most of the buildings pre-date World War I; many are priceless examples of American exposition-style architecture.

Throughout its history, the Fair has been a unique institution, serving to educate, inform and entertain people from all walks of life. It is an outstanding agricultural showplace, boasting one of the world’s largest livestock shows. Also home to the largest art show in the state, the Fair showcases visual and performing arts with a variety of special exhibits and activities.

We (the California team) have been graciously welcomed to Iowa. The people here are fantastic! Polite, friendly and caring.  The show that has been put together for these IMG_0928kids is without a doubt unrivaled! From the moment we arrived on Saturday each and every contestant (all 1000+ of them) have been treated as if they all had gone pro! Nowhere have I seen such generosity towards giving each and every child “their” moment. Yes at the end of the week there will be winners, and there will be losers, but each child will have had “their” moment in the sun!

It starts with a green lush campground, where care has been made to keep each state together, golf carts have been provided (at a fee) to help travel across these expansive grounds with saddles, feed and nervous competitors.

Moving to the center of the fairgrounds, the entire area is closed of to traffic (golf carts only) to lessen any chances of injuries to spectators, competitors and animals.  Every manufacture is here in one gigantic pavilion, showing the latest in rodeo gear, tack and animal care products! There are numerous raffles, covering clothing, boots, saddles and yes even a new Dodge truck! Practice roping stations are everywhere for fun and another large building is set up inside as a kids zone for competitors and their family members to go play games, shoot pool or practice roping some more!

The California team consisted of the top competitors in their divisions determined at the state level (just as with every other state). This band of misfits have banded together and for those who didn’t know each other they all are becoming fast friends.  Many of the other states are joining up as well cheering each other on and everyone (parents included) seem to be having a great time.

Sunday morning started with a two-hour meeting which filled the main arena. The rules were laid out and policies explained. The grounds are filled with eyes and any infraction will cost a participant the chance to compete! Sitting in the stands you could feel the electricity as the building was filled to capacity with rodeo kids, friends and family! Flags from all the states represented are flying, including Canada and Australia! Each performance is comprised of 5/6 states with next Saturday being the short go!

The first go was Sunday night, it was a real testing of the waters as far as competition goes and man did the kids live up to the hype! The performances put forth were outstanding! Large groups of parents cheering for their states, kids cheering for friends and the ability to watch everything from both arenas on a large split screen television overhead made the events very entertaining for all involved. By the end of the evening it became clear it was definitely going to be a long week but one they all would remember for the rest of their lives!

 

More to come!