As 2018 dawned, I checked my email to find the WRCA had sent out the 2018 Ranch Team Packets. It includes information on team qualification standards, defining what it means to be a “working ranch,” who among partners, employees and day workers are eligible to compete on a team, and regulations and expectations of team members.
While there are restrictions to becoming a WRCA-approved team, there are many ways potential contestants can construct a team within the rules.
In fact, some of the tweaks the WRCA board has made for the 2018 season make putting a team together easier, so it’s a good idea to check the particulars. In some situations, ranches that couldn’t compete before will be able to now.
The WRCA’s mission is to promote ranching, preserve the Western heritage, and educate the public, so they do maintain certain standards for ranch teams. The competition is merely a means to that end. So, as competitors and representatives of the lifestyle, the WRCA restricts its competition membership to ranches and cowboys who own a certain amount of cattle or earn their wages as working cowboys. Basically, the WRCA wants its ranch team members to be fully invested in ranching—not working it as a secondary career or income. BUT, it’s also important to know that the WRCA offers many layers of membership that aren’t as restrictive. Whether you’re a banker in New York who has always dreamed of being a cowboy, a surfer in California who grew up on a ranch, or you own 40 cows and have a job in town, you can still be a member of the WRCA and help promote the values of the cowboy and preserve a way of life.
To demonstrate how the WRCA’s mission is manifested in the team packet, the Contestant Rules of Conduct are very revealing. To me, this shows what the competition in the WRCA is all about:
- Anyone (contestant or otherwise) entering the arena shall be wearing long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, boots and a cowboy hat. Chaps and spurs should be worn in all events except Wild Cow Milking.
- Abuse of either personal animals or event animals (kicking, whipping, tripping, gouging of eyes, or any action which is totally unnecessary) is strictly prohibited. No Exceptions!
- No alcoholic beverages permitted in the arena. No Exceptions!
- No loud, obnoxious profanity or unsportsmanlike conduct.
- The violation of any conduct rule could result in Team disqualification.
At a time in our history when it seems anything is permissible within our society, I’m pleased to be a part of a group of folks who have standards and little to no tolerance for abusive or rude behavior.
It’s a joy to compete at these ranch rodeos with people who adhere to these rules and understand the big picture: that they’re representing a way of life. Yet, there’s also the incredible feeling that comes with a win. I’m just so thankful that there’s an organization out there that allows ranch people the chance to experience the thrills of competition while working toward a goal that’s bigger than any individual.