The one-year-old Maryland High School Rodeo Association put on its first-ever rodeo at the Brice Ridgely Live Events Arena during the Howard Country Fair in August. The rodeo was very well attended and was a showcase for the talents of the admittedly fledgling rodeo contestants.
The rodeo had some excellent professional help. Announcer Chip Ridgely of Rockin’ R Western Productions announced for the show. The clown (who is not only an entertainer in his own right, but also one of the more important safety factors for the bull riders) was none other than Tim Johnson, two-time National Champion Bull Rider for the American Pro Rodeo Association. The Rodeo Rescue team, headed by Mark Thornton, was in attendance in case of serious injury. Mark Thornton is a State of Maryland EMT-B. He has 14 years experience in rodeo medical support and works with several rodeos in the state.
In keeping with the traditions of High School Rodeo across the nation the event opened with a prayer for the safety of everyone in attendance. High School Rodeo understands that sending out young competitors with a prayer not only offers confidence, but also gives clarity to their work in the sport.
The grand entry was a great mixture of pretty girls and horses, also very traditional in rodeo. The Maryland Rodeo Queen and a cavalcade of riders entered carrying the American flag, the Maryland flag and the flags of several of the companies who have stepped up to fund this new and vital program in rodeo-hungry Maryland. After the high school and junior high school performers exited, the Maryland High School Rodeo Queen, Madison Iager, rode in on her mule and brought in the Mustangs, which is a group of elementary school-age beginner members of the group for their own grand entry on their horses.
The rodeo opened with its two bull riders, who were also given the opportunity to finish the show (as is tradition) as well. It can’t be easy for a young bull rider to wait for an entire rodeo to meet a 2,000-pound opponent. This was a very well thought-out variation on the normal scheme of things. Marshal Warden gave his bull a run for its money, riding well into the seven-second time. B.J. Greene was not quite so lucky with his bull, but had as good a go as a young man can expect when he is overmatched by about 1,900 pounds of twist and turn.
The barrel racers and the pole benders took over for a great show, with lots of entries fighting hard for the best times. There was goat tying and calf roping as well as another round for the bull riders.
For 2015, there are plans for a reined cow horse division to be added to the rodeo. Reined cow horse classes combine the best of riding a reining pattern with being able to work a cow up and down a fence line — the start of basic cutting work for rider and horse alike.
This first rodeo was a great beginning for a brand new group which had its start, according to Chip Ridgely “in the parking lot of a Wegman’s store just last year”. It was actually the brain child of now National Director Karen Anderson, who thought the time was right for Maryland to join the National High School Rodeo Association. She announced her willingness to participate in the founding of a group for this purpose on Facebook. That announcement resulted in a core group of about 30 people, 20 adults and 10 kids who wanted what National High School Rodeo had to offer Maryland.
Current President Katie Nechamkin says, “I missed the Wegman’s parking lot meeting, but I have made it to every other meeting and I love being a part of this association and this group of kids, parents and professionals. I think that we all know that we have a ways to go, but we are all working hard and these kids are coming on strong!”