Early in Saturday’s action in the High Plains Junior Rodeo Association finals at Curry County Events Center, in the world of man-vs.-animal, it was the animals who had the better time of it.
Two riders were thrown to the ground, causing temporary delays while they gathered their senses.
And then a bull sent another would-be rider out of the Events Center on a stretcher.
Later, in barrel racing, a horse decided that rounding the first two barrels was enough before taking an unexpected right turn straight to the exit.
It was just another day for cowboys and cowgirls, except that these were junior versions at the High Plains Junior Rodeo Association finals in Clovis and — contrary to one old adage — the animals’ actions brought one 5-year-old barrel racer to tears and appeared to make a couple of young bull riders, who were actually riding calves on this day, want to do the same.
“She’s pretty competitive for her age already,” said Stephanie Baldwin of her daughter MaKylee, 5, the unfortunate passenger on the wayward barrel racing horse. “They’re on some big, powerful horses. I just told her, ‘We have next year.’ She’ll be OK.”
The Baldwins, from Farwell, had two other junior cowboys competing in Rustin, 8, and Garrett, 11. Stephanie made sure she was on hand to assist her youngest son after his run in the boys breakaway roping — something she said Rustin wasn’t embarrassed about at all.
“Not now anyway,” Baldwin said. “Maybe later when he’s in high school.”
The HPJRA Finals, which wraps up a season of rodeos that started back in April around eastern New Mexico and west Texas, featured competition in a variety of age categories.
For those in the older age brackets, such as Nicole Espenson of Hart, Texas, winning Saturday’s short-go meant some decent money for a teenager. Espenson figured that her time of 2.77 in the 19-and-under breakaway roping, tops on this day, was worth “around $500.”
“I’ll probably just put it in the bank,” said Espenson, 17, who had three siblings also competing at the event. Younger sister Kelsey Espenson had grabbed victory for herself in the 13-15 barrel racing.
Nicole, the oldest of the four, said that bragging is kept at a minimum around the Espenson table when one of the younger kids does better on a particular day.
“No, we’re actually pretty good about that,” she said. “We just try to make each other better.”
Some of the events were somewhat abridged versions of the activities engaged cowboys at theProfessional Rodeo Cowboys Association level.
Calf touching, for instance, eventually evolves into tie-down roping.
Chute dogging is later recognizable as steer wrestling — an event where cowboys jump off their horse to tackle a steer and take it to the ground.
In Saturday’s chute dogging, both man and animal leave the chute with feet on the ground.
“You have your hands around the neck,” said Jayden Kirkpatrick of Tatum, winner of Saturday’s 13-15 short-go. “There’s a line outside of the gate and, when you cross the line, the judge will yell at you.
“When he yells at you, you grab his horns.”
Kirkpatrick, meanwhile, registered a time of 3.65 seconds.
“It’s all about momentum and leverage,” he said. “He had a lot of momentum and I grabbed him at the right time.”