The Gary Hardt Memorial Spring Rodeo started as an Old-Timers Rodeo years ago, but has since grown into a fully sanctioned PRCA event featuring some of the top cowboys and cowgirls in the country.
Payson has a long tradition of rodeo. Much has changed over the years in rodeo, from ranch hands riding local stock to vie for top-dog bragging rights and show off their skills, to a multi-million dollar endeavor that now gives back big time to various charities like breast cancer research and salutes our veterans, featuring top stock that is bred just for rodeo. Salt River Rodeo, with some of the top bulls and bucking stock in the West, is this year’s stock contractor.
The rodeo performances feature seven traditional rodeo events:
Steer Wrestling (aka bulldogging) is the quickest of the rodeo events. It requires strength, speed and timing. It is a timed event and cowboys compete against each other and the clock. The amount of time it takes to complete could be as fast as just 4 seconds.
Saddle Bronc Riding
This event grew naturally out of ranch cowboys breaking wild broncos in the late 1800s to use as working cow horses. Modern saddle bronc riding has a few modifications, mainly in equipment. Saddle Bronc saddles are lightweight and have no saddle horn. It’s a very hard event to master. Riders must hold their boots over the horse’s shoulders at the first jump from the chute (called the mark out rule) and they must stay on for 8 seconds. The rider must constantly lift on the hack rein to keep his seat in the saddle. With all bronc events, a fleece flank strap is buckled around the flank of the animal, just snug enough to tickle. The animals, professional athletes in their own right, feel the fleece and know it’s bucking time.
Bareback Riding is a rough and explosive rodeo event and predictably the most physically demanding of all the rodeo events. To compete, the cowboy rides with no rein or saddle, but instead a rigging, which looks like a heavy piece of leather with a suitcase style handle. Riding one-handed, the cowboy cannot touch the horse with his free hand and, in this event, he will lean way back onto the haunches of the horse for position. As with Saddle Bronc Riding, the mark out rule is in effect
Barrel Racing is a timed rodeo event, where the fastest time wins. Cowgirls race their top barrel horses around a cloverleaf pattern of three barrels. The riders enter the arena at full speed, quickly rounding each barrel and then exiting where they entered. A laser timer is used, registering to a hundredth of a second. Speed is what it is all about in this event. But if a rider knocks over a barrel, it is a 5-second penalty. It may look easy, but remember, these horses are flying along at 35 miles per hour or more.
Bull Riding is the most dangerous of all the rodeo events. Bull riders say, “It’s not if you get hurt, it’s when.” As with Bareback Riding and Saddle Bronc, bull riders ride with one hand and cannot touch the bull with the free hand. Bull riders hang on to a thickly braided rope with a cowbell attached. The cowbell acts as a weight, allowing the rope to safely fall off when the ride is over. Cowboys can spur for extra points, but just staying on the bull for 8 seconds is the main priority.
Team Roping is the only team event in rodeo. Like other rodeo events, team roping grew out of the ranch chores of the past. Larger cattle would have to be constrained for branding and doctoring by two ropers due to their strength and size. Today, two cowboys (known as the header and the heeler) work together to rope the horns and the back feet of a steer. The team that finishes the fastest wins. If they only catch one back leg, they receive a 5-second penalty on their time and if they break the barrier strip — the head start line for the steer — they are penalized 10 seconds.
Tie-Down Roping is the classic Old West ranch chore, formerly (and occasionally still) called calf roping. Like the steer wrestlers and team ropers, tie-down ropers start in the box ready to compete. The calf is released and the cowboy must ride his horse out of the box quickly, rope it, dismount, then sprint to the calf and lay it on its side, called flanking. With a pigging string, usually held in the cowboy’s teeth, he’ll tie up any three of the calf’s legs. The clock stops when the cowboy throws up his hands. If the calf struggles free within 6 seconds, the cowboy gets a “no time.” Tie-Down Roping is very competitive and takes an extremely trained horse, usually a Quarter Horse. A good rope horse can cost $75,000 or more, and many ropers use each other’s horses at different events.