Fans of the Clovis Rodeo got an early treat, as the Clovis Ranch Rodeo kicked off the first of the month-long festivities at the Clovis Rodeo Grounds on April 6.
Participants competing in nine teams of four displayed their ranching skills in five judged events and six timed events. There were team events, such as branding, doctoring, roping and sorting, as well as individual contests, such as ranch horse, trail horse and ranch cutting.
The top team of the annual event, a team of cowgirls consisting of Stacey Schmidt,
Carly Piazza, Johni Santucci and Brooke Jackson, took home the win, as well as custom saddles and bragging rights as the 2019 champions.
Taking second place was the team of cowboys Andrew Steiger, Clint Willoughby, Joe Willoughby and John Boschi.
The rodeo hosted competitors of all ages, the youngest of which was 12-year-old Trent Jones, who competed on a team with his brother Tyler, 14, along with his parents Scott and Jessica.
Trent said one of the things he enjoys about the Ranch Rodeo is the opportunity to “get out and have fun with your family.”
For the Joneses, that fun included an impressive time of 9.72 seconds in the team roping event.
Trent and his brother Tyler said they have grown up riding horses, and many of the events they participated in at the rodeo are activities they regularly practice at their grandfather’s ranch.
“We’ll go up during our breaks or over the weekend and help him move his cows and stuff like this,” Tyler said.
The Jones brothers said they have fun competing on a team with their parents, although they said at times that can come with some pressure.
“It’s kind of nerve-racking,” Trent said.
As nerve-racking as it may be, Jessica said it is her boys that continue to show her the ropes. Trent posted one of the top times in the steer stopping event with a time of 7.81 seconds in his second year competing at the rodeo.
But there was more than just youth on display that afternoon.
At the age of 84, Tucker Slender, a past winning participant and the oldest competitor of the afternoon, still rides in the ranching competition with a team of mule riders.
“We come here with a mule team,” Slender said. “Those guys I’m with, the young guys, they can all rope good.”
But Slender is no slouch in the saddle, showing his prowess in events such as team sorting and cowboy team roping. He credits riding horses for his health and his ability to stay competitive.
“I think this riding…it helps me. I get up in the morning and my feet hit the floor, I’m a happy guy. I’ve got another day left — ready to rock and go saddle a horse,” Slender said.
The Clovis Ranch Rodeo is considered one of the top ranch rodeos in California and is sanctioned by the Western States Ranch Rodeo Association. Teams have the opportunity to garner points and move on to the next level of competition, where they will go up against working cowboys from major ranches throughout the Western United States.
The next contest of the Clovis Rodeo Month will be the annual Jackpot Roping event at 10 a.m. on April 13 at the Clovis Rodeo Grounds.