Big Poppa and Mastermind are coming out of the chutes with cowboys atop -- but maybe not for long -- at the 2007 Gary Hardt Memorial Rodeo.
Ex-rodeo bull fighter, Skip Beeler's Salt River Rodeo Company out of Mayer is supplying 60 horses and 30 bulls and steers for cowboys to match their riding and roping skills against May 18 and 19 at Payson Event Center.
"I'll tell you what, there'll be a lot better stock there than they've seen in the past," Beeler said. "A lot of the good cowboys we have talked to through the year are going to come, so they'll really see a difference."
Beeler began his career stock contracting in 2000, but he has had his PRCA card since 1978.
"I've even worked the Payson rodeos quite a few times," he said. "But I'm too old for fighting bulls now. That's a young man's game. The older I get (50) the faster those bulls get."
Some of the stock Beeler had at the National Finals Rodeo, where "they only take the best stock" will be in Payson.
Other bulls he said to watch are Out of Time, Geronimo and Wolf Puppy.
"Wolf Puppy's a really special bull we raised and just cracked out this year," Beeler said.
"People think you poke them with a stick and that's what makes them buck," he said.
"If you did that, everyone would have a great pen full of bulls and horses," he said.
A 40-pound dummy is placed on a bull's back when he is 2 years old. It stays on for 6 seconds.
"Here at the ranch, we went through 40 calves (a month) ago. We run 'em in, put that dummy on them and if they show no potential, we feed them out for beef calf, but we don't get many of those with our breeding program.
"We bring them back again when they are 3 and put the dummy on them and buck them once or twice that year.
"When they are 4 we put them to work.
"It's like breeding a good hound. If it isn't bred in them, it's not there," he said.
"Bulls sell for $40-50,000 apiece and horses sell for $35-40,000 apiece, so there is a lot more to it -- those bulls and horses are just like athletes. They like doing their job.
"I had an NFR Bull of the Year in 2000," Beeler said. "I shipped two of his sons back to the NFR in 2005."
When the bulls aren't working, they run in pastures on the ranch where they still get fed 10 pounds of grain a day.
Much like the horses, except they get fed 6 pounds of grain.
Saddle broncs and bareback horses are both bucking horses, but they are ridden with a different kind of rigging.
A bareback uses a kind of flat piece of leather strapped to its back with something like a suitcase handle for the rider to hold onto with one hand, Beeler explained.
A saddle bronc wears an association tee without a saddle horn. It does have stirrups and a halter.
"Mostly what we haul are geldings or mares," Beeler said. "We keep studs at the ranch and breed them. There are a few studs you can keep who'll buck, but you have to keep them by themselves so they don't hurt themselves or something else, so we are limited to how many studs we can bring."
Among the 60 horses, a few to watch are Headlight, a saddle bronc that went to the NFR, Poacher's Moon, Blueberry and Anchor's Aweigh.
The horses go to pasture after their careers are over.
"We have a lot of range to turn them out on," Beeler said.
A few begin a new rodeo career.
"The best pickup horses are those older broncs," Beeler said. "They aren't afraid of what's going on in the arena.
"The worst thing you can have is to have a horse quit ya and back out 'cause you'll get kicked. You want one that will go in there and just mother-up to that other horse.
"My wife said I take better care of my horses than I do her. But she's a barrel racer so she's the same way. Sometimes I think she takes better care of her horse than she does of me."
Beeler said his rodeo stock is well cared for.
Roping cattle in the arena is the same thing that is "done on a ranch every day when they are doctored or branded. And on the ranch that is what you make your living off of -- those calves."
"You can't afford to hurt them because you have $600 a head in them," he said.
Then, in the feed lot later, they are worth more than that $600.
Plus the PRCA has rules.
"Some people think these animals are mistreated. They are far from that. They are treated better than most people because they are worth so much money," Beeler said.