Wy­oming Bull Breed­ers Pro­vide Mini Bulls For Young Rid­ers

Riverbank News - - NEIGHBORHOOD VALUES -

LARAMIE, Wyo. — Clad in or­nate chaps, pro­tec­tive vests and straw cow­boy hats, lit­tle cow­pokes crowded the Al­bany County Fair­grounds buck­ing chute re­turn, anx­iously eye­ing the horned beasts to their left and right.

Cow­boys and cow­girls, aged 8-18, cooled their nerves with idle chat­ter and last minute ad­vice about what could be the most im­por­tant eight sec­onds of their sum­mer.

Si­lence fell over spec­ta­tor and par­tic­i­pant alike, hats were placed over hearts and heads bowed as the na­tional an­them filled the arena, kick­ing off the Laramie Ju­bilee Days Ju­nior Bull Rid­ing Rodeo.

All eyes fo­cused on the arena.

Each chute opened re­vealed a new chap­ter in the saga of rider vs. bull. Mud flew, rid­ers fell and hooves kicked. No mat­ter the out­come, ev­ery bout was met with a round of cheers.

But be­hind the chaos, hid­den among the nu­mer­ous vol­un­teers work­ing the chutes, Roland and Ge­orgie Smith, co-own­ers of S&S Mini Buck­ing Bulls, were hard at work en­sur­ing the an­i­mals were ready to go and fit for per­for­mance.

“I started rid­ing steers at 10 years old,” said Roland Smith, a clean-shaven 62year old with weathered hands and a neigh­borly smile. “It’s not the same as rid­ing bulls, and a lot guys didn’t take the tran­si­tion from steers to bulls well.”

With­out ac­cess to bet­ter al­ter­na­tives, he ex­plained many ju­nior rodeos used steers for young bull rid­ers un­til they were big enough to strad­dle the full-grown bulls used in the pro­fes­sional rodeo cir­cuit.

“I felt there was a need for some­thing in be­tween,” Roland Smith said.

“So, we started rais­ing mini bulls about 10 years ago. It can build some good bull rid­ers, start­ing them on mini bulls. It’s kind of like a bull rid­ing univer­sity if you will.”

MINI BULLS

Ju­bilee Days has hosted ju­nior bull rid­ing for about 16 years, but for more than a decade, the Ju­bilee Days Com­mit­tee scrounged for an­i­mals the kids could ride, Ju­bilee Days Com­mit­tee Vice Chair My­ron Hales said.

“What we’d do be­fore the mini bulls is we’d try to round up steers and year­ling ( bulls),” Hales ex­plained. “We’d get lo­cal an­i­mals from lo­cal ranch­ers, what­ever we could find.”

The stock was enough to get peo­ple in­volved, but he said it was a less than ideal sit­u­a­tion.

“The kids like the mini bulls so much bet­ter,” Hales said. “Those pee­wee bulls by no means are mean, and they don’t buck a lot. But at the same time, they give the kids the feel of rid­ing a bull.”

About four years ago, Hales dis­cov­ered S&S and has con­tracted with them ever since.

The Smith’s mini bulls are bred specif­i­cally for the ju­nior bull rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, Roland Smith said.

“They’re a dif­fer­ent breed al­to­gether,” he ex­plained. “We started out breed­ing zebu cows with mini brahma.”

While the zebu and minia­ture brahma mix achieved the size and tem­per­a­ment the cou­ple was look­ing for, the re­sult­ing bulls didn’t al­ways have the en­ergy to keep up with the kids, Roland Smith said.

“We started breed­ing in Scot­tish high­lander, an­gus and dex­ter cows, so the bulls are truly a cross­breed,” he ex­plained. “The dex­ter, an­gus and high­lander give them power and thick­ness and the stamina to buck.”

COM­PE­TI­TION

Be­fore Ge­orgie Smith mar­ried Roland Smith in 2003, she’d never worked a ranch, but nowa­days, chil­dren flock to her side in­quir­ing about how to ride the dif­fer­ent bulls.

“I tell them to ride them jump for jump, be­cause even though a bull acted one way at one event, there’s no guar­an­tee they’ll act the same at this one,” Ge­orgie Smith said.

With­out Roland Smith’s agri­cul­tural back­ground, the rodeo was a wide new world.

“The thing that al­ways sur­prises me the most about rodeo­ing is the kids aren’t com­pet­i­tive with each other,” she said, rolling her plaid sleeve up to her shoul­der and ad­just­ing the brunette pony tail pok­ing through her ball cap. “They are only com­pet­i­tive with the an­i­mal they’re about to ride.”

Liv­ing in New Mex­ico, the Smiths drive nine hours one way to de­liver their bulls the day of the event, then turn around and drive back the next morn­ing.

Be­cause of the long trip, Roland Smith said they of­ten con­tract with other breed­ers around the area to sup­ply ad­di­tional bulls, al­low­ing the cou­ple to make the trip with a sin­gle trailer of their own stock in tow.

“It was a lot eas­ier when we lived in Colorado a year ago,” Ge­orgie Smith said. “But when we moved, we knew we didn’t want to lose this event. We love it.”

Roland Smith added, “My­ron is great to work with. The peo­ple come out in crowds, and there’s lots of kids who love to ride bulls. It’s a great event to be a part of.

PHOTO CON­TRIBUTED

Minia­ture bulls are bred for young rid­ers to use in com­pe­ti­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.