Saturday, September 18, 2010

Running Off the Hill

Yes, we're back. No, this isn't my happy face. It snowed here at the ranch last night. It was eighty degrees every day in Pendleton. If I hadn't left my kid in Spokane, I may never have dragged myself home.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Pendleton Round Up (and I was one of you until I moved to Oregon) it is a rodeo unlike any other. While I was there, I tried to take some photos and video to demonstrate exactly why this is the case. Keep in mind, though, I am a roper and so are all my family members, so I hope you aren't expecting to see bucking horses and bulls. Also keep in mind I have an inexpensive digital camera, so the video is pretty crummy. But at least you'll get the idea.

So what's so special about Pendleton? Well, there are a lot of very cool traditions surrounding the Round Up, and they start and end with the arena. Let us begin by looking at a normal rodeo arena. This is Ellensburg, Washington, another of the string of big pro rodeos in the Pacific Northwest. Nice facility, grandstands, well-groomed arena surface. Very much a traditional setup.

And this is Pendleton:

Yes, that is grass. With a dirt track around the outside. And yes, roping and riding on a grass surface is a little on the tricky side. On top of which, Pendleton doesn't have regular roping boxes. Or a chute. The calf or steer isn't standing out there in front of you where you can see it.

In Pendleton, you start with your horse's butt cocked up against the wall on the high side of the banked dirt track and run 'off the hill' onto the grass to rope. When you nod your head, the calf comes trotting out of a lane behind you, under the grandstand, and you have to try to time your start on the move. It's almost impossible to describe, so I took video.

Here's the cowboy's eye view of 'running off the hill' in Pendleton:


The reason timing is so important is at the end of that lane, between the white gates, there is a barrier rope shown in the picture below. About twenty feet out from the barrier is a laser-activated electric eye that releases the barrier rope when the calf breaks the laser beam. If the horse hits the barrier rope before the calf trips the rope out of the way, the piece of cotton string just to the left of the orange flag will break and the cowboy receives a ten second penalty. This is called 'breaking the barrier' or 'breaking out'. 

So not only do you have to run off the hill onto a slick grass surface and rope a calf that might go any which way, you have to try to be exactly twenty feet behind the calf when you hit the end of the lane.

Easy peasy, right?

*For those who care, I don't remember who the first roper was, but he caught a hind leg in his loop and wasn't able to tie the calf because it was all tangled up. The second was Tuf Cooper, with his dad Roy helping him with his horse in the roping box. He missed his calf. 


Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Snow already? I'm not ready for that yet. Thanks for the great pictures.

D said...

It was GREAT to see Greg while you were in town... sure missed seeing you thought!

Megan said...

Saw some video of TR and heeler's horse's hocks hit the ground when they turned the corner. Yikes! The sprinkler heads were also brought to my attention for the bull doggers... Team roper told me they won't get off by a certain point in the field bc blown out knees are a guarantee. True or untrue?

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Megan: Steer wrestling is the most dangerous event at Round Up,hands down. I've got some video I'm going to post as soon as I get time to upload. The sprinkler heads aren't as much of a problem as the divots the horses make.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

D: I was very sad that I didn't make it over to with Greg, except I'm glad I didn't go with him to our old house. Seeing my lawn trashed might have made me cry.

Weekend Cowgirl said...

Well, it looks like you have been having all the fun. And a snow dusting already? We are on 126 day over over 90 degree heat. But, this weekend it is supposed to drop to 80s so we are dancing.

Jaym said...

That looks more like 3 Day Eventing stuff. "Oh sure, I consider it fun to rush, downhill, headlong, on slick, rutted ground, at a jump that weighs 3 times more than my incredibly hyped-up horse! Yay!"

Thank god we didn't have calves and ropes added into the equation...

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Jayme: The cross country part of three day eventing is insane. Couldn't get me to try it for love or money, or love of money.

Posey said...

Fascinating. And by the way, that video... I have never seen so many cowboy hats!