LIVESTOCK CARE CRITICAL PART OF WORLD-CLASS COMPETITION AT THE AMERICAN ROYAL
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The job of many in rodeo is part athlete, part travel agent and part animal caregiver.
It combines into a full-time job, whether it’s as a crew member for a livestock producer, cowboy or cowgirl. The entire package comes together at world-class events like the American Royal PRCA Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, at Hale Arena.
Unlike many other professional sports, rodeo features another variable that is just as much athlete as any human that participates. Bulls and horses are a major ingredient in the game, whether they buck or are the primary engine that drives cowboys and cowgirls to incredibly fast times.
“The feed and preparation you put into them is what makes the animals so good,” said Cody Kidd, the general manger of Stace Smith Pro Rodeos, the American Royal’s stock contractor. “There are bulls and horses that cost millions of dollars. You’ve got to take care of those animals, and that’s what we all try to do.”
The Smith firm travels nationwide producing rodeos. When the bucking horses and bulls are not somewhere between Mississippi and Utah for the competition, they reside on the Smith ranch near Malakoff, Texas, where they enjoy lush grasslands and the right care that’s needed to help them perform at their best.
“It all starts at the ranch back in Texas,” Kidd said. “They are cared for better than some humans are. They get looked at after and are fed grain daily. We know that they’re getting enough treatment that they can handle the road, getting from one rodeo to another. They have to be in good shape, and we do everything to make sure they are.
“When we go to Kansas City, we’ll go from Amarillo (Texas). Part of the care is having a good staff. We’ve got great people at the ranch and great guys that go on the road to make sure they get the right care.”
For timed-event contestants, caring for horses is vital. It takes fast times to be successful, and horsepower is the key to it all.
“He eats before I eat,” steer wrestler Bray Armes said of his horse, Ote, which guided the Texan to the average championship at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo last December. “You treat him like he’s your child. If he gets hurt or anything, you get him to the vet and get him checked out.
“He’s part of the family. I feel very blessed to have him. He gives me a chance to win every time. If I don’t, it’s usually pilot error.”
Cowboys and cowgirls travel about 100,000 miles a year. For timed-event contestants, that means their horses ride in specialized trailers to assist in the animals’ comfort along every highway and interstate. Once they arrive at a rodeo, both human and equine needs to have their bodies in working order to compete at a high level.
“We’ve got to take care of them just like we take care of ourselves,” said Armes, who has earned his third straight qualification to the NFR. “Actually, we probably take better care of our horses than we do ourselves.”
Armes, who lives in Ponder, Texas, with his wife and two children, knows how important it is to allow Ote to perform well. It helps to understand the palomino gelding loves his job.
“If you watch him at the NFR, 90 percent of the time he makes a lap at the end of the arena, then he goes to chasing that steer out of the arena,” he said. “We have to have them to do what we do, but you can sit and watch a horse and tell if he loves his job or not. If they don’t love their jobs, we don’t force it upon them.
“You can watch bucking horses, and you know they love to get the cowboy on the ground. They’re bred that way. They just love what they do.”