Real Life Rodeo Moms of Montana

Some of the women reading this will recognize themselves. Those of us who are rodeo moms know the agony of watching our kids enter the arena and have a bad run. We know the joy of watching their hard work pay off with a great run. We are a unique mix of cheerleader, coach, driver, and gopher.

The overwhelming truth is that we are responsible for molding our kids into successful cowboys (even if they’re girls), and also maintaining the ethical and moral fabric of their forming psyches. We make them practice – rain or shine, summer and winter. We emphasize good sportsmanship and good horsemanship. We build them up on the days they fall. And we take them down a few pegs when they get a little too cocky.

Some people will argue that ‘soccer moms’ or ‘football moms’ or ‘ballet moms’ are the same. I know we all share certain traits. We want our kids to do well and will support them in those efforts. But rodeo is a creature in itself.

It is one of the most expensive sports. Here in Montana, it is not sanctioned by schools. So that means every expense is on the family: the horses, the truck and trailer, the travel, the practice, the feed, etc. Whether your kid is a roughie or a roper, a goat tyer or a barrel racer, you add another piece to the equation: a four-legged partner in crime. Those other fill-in-the-blank moms don’t have to contend with a living, breathing, half-ton animal who is necessary for their child’s success. And who is not always rational. Not always focused. Not always prepared. Kind of like our children!

One of my favorite memes is that rodeo is the sport where you spend a fortune to live like a carnival worker.  And that’s pretty true. I am selling my living quarters trailer, which I’ve loved having the past couple of years. But it’s just too big and bulky for what I need right now.  I’m down to one kid at home, and I just don’t need a big four horse living quarters trailer. My plan is to get a small bumper pull and find a camper for my pickup. That would be a little more affordable and practical.

I’ve been divorced for about two and a half years, and that has thrown a different dimension into the equation for me: co-parenting a rising rodeo athlete between two homes. Before that, I didn’t go to a lot of the rodeos when my ex was planning on spending the night. Reason being, we didn’t have a comfortable way for five people to sleep in a four foot tack room. It was easier for my youngest son and me to stay at home.

Now, I do some of the driving. It just depends on which horses my youngest is using. When he uses my horses, I haul them. When he doesn’t, his dad does. Long story. Until last fall, Garris used a mare that belonged to my parents. He had competed on her in almost every event over the past ten years. After our divorce, when he needed her, I insisted on hauling her. Last fall, we decided to retire Peppy, due to her age and the fact that her front end was starting to hurt. It was time to start using the younger horses. Making those hard decisions are tough on us moms.

We rodeo moms always have a full calendar. We’re always juggling rodeos and schedules. And if we have more than one kid competing, the effort multiplies by the number of kids. At one point, when all three of my boys were still at home, we sometimes had three kids going three different directions.  Talk about keeping all the balls in the air at the same time! We had to borrow trucks and trailers. We had to find other families willing to haul our kids.

A person could be at a rodeo or a roping every weekend, if they really wanted to travel that much. My youngest son is doing junior high rodeo about five months out of the year. If he makes it to Nationals, that adds another couple of weeks, when you factor in travel time.

My middle son competes at the collegiate level, he goes to NRA rodeos during the summer, and goes to various jackpot ropings throughout the year. Just a couple of weeks ago, we traded pickups because he was traveling across the state, and my truck was more reliable than his. I don’t make it to many of the college rodeos, because of the travel. But he reports in and lets me know after each run how they went.

It’s hard to sit still and watch the rodeos I do attend. I get nervous. I’ve told my kids to let me get nervous and then they don’t have to. I try to busy my hands by recording times and scores. But I rarely sit in the bleachers during an entire rodeo. I’ll sit during my son’s events, watch some of the other kids we’re close to. But then I have to walk around. You’d think after 18 years of doing this, I’d be past the jitters. I’m not.

The life of rodeo moms isn’t often glamorous. Most of the times, we deal with extremes in weather and always have clothes for every season in the pickup. We are usually covered with arena dirt and/or manure. But I’d rather smell like horse sweat than strong perfume anyhow.

Rodeo mom. I accept the moniker proudly. I’ll be his cheerleader. I’ll be his driver. His coach. And his gopher. Every moment I’ve spent in the pickup or in the bleachers have been moments well spent. He may never turn pro. But the lessons and skills he’s learning today will stay with him for life. And maybe someday, he’ll have kids of his own who will need a rodeo mom themselves. (or maybe grand-mom)

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