Wearing cowboy boots and buckskin chinks, a lad of only about 12 years old slides down in the chute, on top of a fierce bucking bronc with fire in his eyes. Older men, who have seen their fair share of rodeo days, tighten up the straps as the announcer cracks a joke about the young bronc, who has yet to let a rider stay on. A man holds a red flag in his hand as another holds the rope that releases the gate. Three, two, one.
In a matter of less than 8 seconds, the bronc gets the better end of the deal as the cowboy slides off without a score — proving how tough it is to become a rodeo champion.
The “Bust'n Mini Broncs and Bulls Double Header” attracted families from across North Dakota Sunday afternoon at Dickinson State University’s Indoor Arena with over 80 kids ranging from 4 to 17 years old. K-8 Bucking Bulls and Buzzard Bait Bucking Ponies set high expectations for young rodeo competitors with events ranging from bull riding, bareback and saddle bronc.
Jennie Anderson, of Sawyer, entered four of her six children into the events — three in the bareback riding and one in the bull riding. For Anderson’s children, aged from 6 to 12 years old, this was their first rodeo as competitors.
“Growing up on a ranch, I think they’re just already kind of used to riding and falling off horses,” Anderson said. “So it’s something that kind of comes naturally to them, but I think it’s just an extra step to get behind a chute and know you’re going to ride out on a bucking horse. It's a great way to develop more grit too.”
Doing rodeo at a young age is a way to use their riding skills for something different, and it builds on their confidence, Anderson said, adding that the rodeo community is nothing but encouraging and supportive for all young cowgirls and cowboys.
“I just love watching them have the confidence to come out without chickening out or backing out. Just to see them — whether they place or not — it doesn’t matter. If they fall off in the first second, just coming out of the gates is something that is a really neat experience that most kids will never do. I just think it’s great,” Anderson noted.