From dust to dust

Photo by Julie Ostler

As the crowd disappears after another exhilarating week of events at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo., athletes begin to pack up their trailers, but the work is just beginning. Wyatt Caldwell and Brady Pitchford of the Utah Valley University Rodeo Team have undergone a grueling week of intense mental determination coupled with physical exertion, and continue to look toward the future and how to improve before the next rodeo. These men know they need to train harder to have better synchronicity with their horses. They realize that their horses are not simply a tool, but become an additional appendage of themselves as a means to achieve mutual glory.

Although the current rodeo circuit may be over for the season, the men now have to switch their thoughts back to their studies as fall semester approaches quickly. As with any collegiate athlete, maintaining a strong GPA, attending classes regularly and working towards their chosen degrees are an absolute necessity in order to remain eligible to stay on the team.

Both Caldwell and Pitchford are fortunate to have strong, supportive women beside them in their endeavors. These lovely women are there to pick them up after a difficult event, as well rejoice in their victories. These women encourage them to continue competing, even when the hours and physical labor of managing horses and travel can be taxing on the family. Rodeo is a lifestyle that the whole family must be on board with, as wives and children help to do the literal dirty work of cleaning up the horses and taking care of all the tack involved.

The families understand that rodeo is an expensive sport. Purchasing and taking care of the animals is costly, both monetarily and time commitment. They are tethered to this sport because their personal schedules have to revolve around not only the events, but also the necessary work for keeping the ranch running smoothly. Family vacations become centralized around event schedules because these athletes can’t take off for a week and leave their animals behind.

Many skills can be gleaned from the rodeo lifestyle: patience, coping and responsibility, to name a few. These families become stronger units because of their shared rodeo experiences, which can be passed down to children as they grow up in the circuit. Some of these positive skills are a direct result of dealing with difficult things. Animals get sick and, at times, need to be put down. The families have to cope with the loss or maiming of their family pets and possibly, their professional careers. The athletes can have physical issues later in life as the events are so physically taxing.

The love of the sport, the excitement from the crowds and the exhilaration while competing makes being part of the rodeo life worthwhile. The prestige and pride that comes along with a huge, shiny belt buckle lets others know that they belong, they mean business and that they are a force to be reckoned with. Plus, the monetary rewards aren’t too shabby either. Rodeo can be quite a lucrative career choice for those who are willing to put in the dedication, long hours and put up with the physical strains.

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