Amarillo, Here We Come! | The WRCA Blog

Logging on to this morning, I saw the official countdown to the 22nd World Championship Ranch Rodeo: Eight days, nine hours, 33 minutes, and the seconds ticking away. A wave of dread and excitement washed over me. As part of the Iron Springs/Welch Cattle Company team, I’m certainly looking forward to our first trip to Amarillo as a competitive team. I am worried, however, about my personal preparation. Am I ready for the “big show?” Perhaps more importantly, is my horse?

As summer wound down, we vowed to get together and practice. Most of the rodeos we compete in have a number sorting set up, whereas the WCRR has a team penning. The sorting is usually one of our stronger events, so we don’t want a drop-off because of a slightly different format. A little practice would go a long way in our confidence level.

Though I’m not in the stray gathering, the other team members wanted to practice that since Amarillo is such a small pen. The rest of the events—bronc riding, wild cow milking and branding—aren’t quite as easy to set up practices for. But some penning and roping practice wouldn’t hurt.

My brother and one other team member got together for some stray gathering practice, but that’s been the only semi-organized get-together. However, a member of another team that has made the WCRR a couple of times was on hand and gave them both some very helpful pointers. (As an aside, that’s one of the neatest things about the ranch rodeo community. Sure, we’ll be competing against his team, but we’re friends first.)

With only eight days left, the likelihood of a formal team penning practice is pretty minimal. Fall is a busy time on most ranches—weaning, shipping and preg-checking—being the primary seasonal tasks. And being gone for at least five days for the WCRR, there’s a long list of other chores to attend to so the ranches will run smoothly in absentia.

In the course of completing these tasks, my brother, another teammate, and I spent time gathering cows and sorting steer and heifer pairs. While we were not giving ourselves time to practice for the rodeo, in a way we were practicing the skills necessary. Now, I’m not naïve enough to say that the work in the pasture is exactly like that in the arena. With a clock running, you tend to take a chance here or there that you might not out in the pasture. Still, the heart of what the contest is about: testing working ranch cowboy skills, is put in practice every day by the men and women who will ride in that grand entry when the World Championship Ranch Rodeo kicks off. Formal practice sessions—mimicking the Amarillo setup—would be nice, but just in the course of a normal day, we do get good work in that should translate to the arena.

So, ready or not, here we come, Amarillo!

Bob Welch has spent his career writing and thinking about horses, riders, and the West. When not sitting at his computer working through writer’s block, he and his family enjoy being horseback, working cattle, and competing in ranch rodeos.