We rolled up the next day, leaving it until nearly lunchtime for a variety of reasons including that we wouldn’t be able to cope with the sun all day, despite Gaylene kindly lending me one of her Stetsons. As it transpired this was also a good decision because not much started until 1pm. This gave us some time to wander around the animal pens, much like the Yorkshire, Emley, Ripley, Otley and Nidderdale shows but much fewer varieties of animals. One area that did attract us were the draft horses receiving their final washing and grooming in preparation for the dray teams. There were the familiar and lovely Clydesdales with their hooves the size of dinner plates, but also a team of Belgians which were rather pretty with their palomino colouring.
We meandered into an indoor arena where something was due to start shortly and found it nearly empty so took up optimum seats only to discover, rather fortuitously, that this was the main show for the afternoon. We watched a team of western female drill team executing intricate synchronised riding reminiscent of armed forces displays at tattoos. We were able to enjoy that part of the show again later outside before the main rodeo began. It looked marvellous and that is the kind of riding I wish I was able to do but I suspect you have to be born in the saddle to be that good.
They were followed by an assortment of ‘acts’ including mini chariot and wheelbarrow racing, Fresian carriage pulling and a stunningly beautiful story of the horse with 2 glorious black Fresians running freely around the arena but in almost complete harmony. There was a horse and hound competition combining dog and equine agility and finally the big horse pulling contest with the winning pair achieving an amazing 9000lbs over 20 feet. They were preceded by the very entertaining X fire drum corps who also repeated their performance in the evening.
There was some free time after this show before the rodeo began so we made our way to the other end of the show ground to see what all the noise was about. The Demolition Derby was well underway and supported by a large crowd. There were no seats or places in the shade left to sit so we perched on the rather steep banking, along with many other people, and tried to prevent ourselves from sliding down on the smooth dead grass whilst watching the antics unfold in front of us. The event which was underway seemed to involve s few heats of some rather beat-up vehicles completing several circuits of a figure of 8 track, with or without taking out any of the other cars in the process. The disabled carcasses were removed by fork lift truck, sometimes with the driver still in situ! This was followed by the finale (what a shame!) which took 5 really decrepit vehicles smashing around the ring trying to demolish each other. It really was a ‘last man standing’ event. One tactic seemed to be to imply that you were completely disabled and out of the competition whilst the remaining drivers tried to destroy each other and then at the last minute, start up again, even if you only had 2 wheels remaining and smoke billowing from under the hood! It wasn’t surprising that this was the last event by the amount of clearing up required to remove all the detritus afterwards.
Once it finished we could release the ‘brakes’ on our feet and legs and slide down the banking, acquiring friction burns and shiney bottoms! The pre-rodeo events were due to start so we ambled towards that arena via a very welcome passion fruit slushy. Again, we were a little early so obtained optimum seating in the stands which provided a lovely degree of ventilation under our seats. It was 5pm but still very warm. The first out were the teams of minis pulling mini chuck wagons, who’s main purpose was to advertise sponsors which was, at least, quite entertaining. We then had a much appreciated repeat of the drill team and drum band. More horses than previously in the former as the arena was bigger and a little loss of sound in the latter so I’m glad we had heard them indoors as they were very good.
The main event started with the clown who seemed to be the star of the show, sometimes even continuing his act whilst events were taking place behind him with no response to each other. I thought he was supposed to just be a gap filler or divert the attention of the animal away from an injured competitor. The latter wasn’t required as some of the beasts appeared to be quite well trained in their roles. Again, it is amazing what some people are prepared to put themselves through. The steer wrestling must have been the most gruelling but also the ‘rope and tie’ involved lassoing the steer, tying it onto your saddle, jumping off your horse and running over to the kicking beast and tying its legs together whilst the horse reversed in order to maintain tension on the rope. One horse didn’t quite get his part as he kept reversing even though the rope had come untied and took some catching. The bucking broncos were the most impressive and probably what I expected a rodeo to be, not realising that there were all the other disciplines. This was carried out in 2 forms, one with and one without a saddle. 8 seconds was the target to stay on for and it must have felt like eternity for some. Again, everyone managed to walk out afterwards even if in varying degrees of lopsided gaits. We didn’t stay for the evening music performance and headed back after enjoying another plate of poutine.