Pre-Rodeo Competition Unites Local Cowboys and Cowgirls

The Ranch Rodeo was held at the Clovis Rodeo Grounds on Saturday, April 15,2017. (Photo by Ron Sundquist)

Seventy-six local cowboys and cowgirls brought their horses and their A-game to the 17th annual Clovis Ranch Rodeo on Saturday, April 15.

The 76 competitors worked in teams of four to complete tasks they perform on a working cattle ranch on a daily basis. The teams compete in five judged and six timed events. The events include team sorting, team branding, individual ranch horse and others.

The event started around 10 a.m. and while it did not draw the large numbers that the Clovis Rodeo does, it hosted a fair number of people. There were cowboy hats of all colors and materials present both in the stands and in the ring.

Cowboys and Cowgirls had to compete using the same horse for all events. Most of these horses were standard cow-bred animals – Quarter Horses with brands on their hips proclaiming their breeding. However, Mules also made an appearance here, and showed they are just as capable of working cows as any horse. Many of the equines were chestnut or bay, but there were also paints, greys, and palominos scattered through.

The riders were as diverse as their horses. The youngest cowboy at the competition was 14-year-old Clint Willoughby and 83-year-old Tucker Slender was the oldest competitor, and has competed here several times.

This year’s winning team was the epitome of “girl power.” Nikki Neal (Modesto), Taylor Hurley (King City), Mikael Bernadette (Aromas) and Kasey Hurley (King City) took home custom-made saddles that declared them champions. Last year’s winning team took second place. The prizes distributed among the top three teams totaled more than $16,000.

The next pre-rodeo event is the Rodeo Queen Horsemanship Competition on Saturday, April 22, followed by the John W. Jones Sr. Memorial Steer Wrestling on April 24, the James Pickens Foundation Roping on April 25 and the Clovis Rodeo Blood Drive on April 26.

All events lead up to the 103rd Clovis Rodeo, which kicks off Thursday, April 27 and runs through Sunday.