EATON — For the first time ever, a World Championship IPRA Rodeo was held on Monday, Aug. 8, at the Preble County Fair.
Hundreds of rodeo fans watched over three hours of fun and excitement as professional rodeo cowboys and cowgirls participated in this event. The Broken Horn Rodeo, located here in Ohio, organized the event for the first time in Preble County. Roughly one hundred riders participated in the championship rodeo.
“We offer seven championship events,” Jim McElroy, president of Broken Horn Rodeo, said of the event. “I’ve been in rodeo since I was four years old. I met my wife in rodeo after Vietnam, my boys got involved in high school rodeo and pro rodeo. We decided to start a company in 1991, and the rest is history.”
Rodeo is a sport in which many people begin their careers when they are very young. Gabe Hildebrand is a rodeo cowboy from Kansas who is a classic example of a lifelong rodeo performer.
“I’ve been in it since I started walking,” Hildebrand said. “It’s what I was exposed to and I’ve been into it ever since. Been here in Ohio for a month — last night we were in Canada and back here tonight, Pennsylvania tomorrow and in New York the day after. I like the fun, but there’s also the money. Got to make a living somehow.”
“It’s a bit easy to get into rodeo,” Hildebrand said. “Just find a horse somewhere and spend time learning how to ride.” Hildebrand finished second in the team roping alongside Ethan Cory.
There are seven events in rodeo: bareback bronc riding, tie down, steer wrestling, girl’s barrel riding, team roping, steer riding, and bull riding.
In addition, kids were invited to participate in the stick-horse riding, in which they “ride” stick horses in a race to earn free bicycles for the first place winning boy and girl.
Trey Moore, who won the bareback riding contest, was eager to talk about his win.
“It was a young colt — they are always fun to get on and I dang sure drew really good tonight,” said Moore. “You have to kick the fear out of it and I did well. But you’ve got to have the heart for this sport. If a man is just there to do it and impress the women, he’s going to get hurt every time and he won’t last. I won so I can’t complain at all.” Moore earned $378 in prize money for winning the bareback bronc riding, while Joe Courville took second place with a prize of $252.
Ryan Rodriguez is the professional rodeo clown who puts on a spectacular show with his humor. A veteran performer of over 24 years, he rarely stood still during the three-hour event, entertaining the fans.
“They had some electrified bulls here tonight,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been all over the country, and in Mexico, and it’s a big family affair. My grandfather started the Michigan Ropers Association in 1959, so I grew up going to rodeos all my life and saw how the clowns had the most fun — so that’s where I went from there and been loving it my whole life.
“My parents really didn’t want me to follow this career but I raise my kids in it and my kids get to ride horses and sometimes they get to play video games,” he said. “I remember back in high school when I told my guidance counselor that I wanted to be a rodeo clown. She thought it was a good hobby. Three years later, I showed her my tax forms and they revealed how I make almost three times as much as she does, and she said ‘I will never discourage anyone from chasing their dreams again.’”
Josie McElroy is a female barrel rider who is a family member of the McElroys in the Broken Horn Rodeo. She is also the American flag bearer who begins the rodeo with the National Anthem.
“My grandparents have done this rodeo for 30 years, so I’ve grown into this as everyone else,” Josie said. “I carry the flag, I barrel race, and haul bulls. All our bulls come from the Professional Bull-riding Association. Sometimes they are seen on CBS about once a month or two.”
She talked about the joys of being a female rodeo rider. “It’s not real different compared to being a man. But the thing I love the best is being a role model to all the little girls out there. When I was their age, I used to look up to the female riders and wanted to be just like them, so I’m happy to pass on that image to the young girls.
“I really like having fun. Winning is just a bonus.”
Josie McElroy didn’t place in the barrel riding. Amber Mosteller was the winner of the event; BB Hastings took second place, while Jael Pepper and Kali Carpenter rounded out third and fourth in a field of 24 girl riders.
Other winners included Ethan Cory and Drew Carnes in the team roping. KC Jones won the tie down roping, and Clay Millhollin won the steer wrestling. No riders won the bull riding or steer riding events.
One interesting aspect of rodeo many people may not be aware of is that even though the show is over, the rodeo in itself continues. The show that is open to the public will include a predetermined amount of riders which are randomly chosen before the event begins. Once the show is over, there are leftover riders who will participate during the night, known as “Slackers.” If there are extra Slackers, they will be allowed to participate in their registered events, while those who participated in the show get to watch. In most cases, girls’ barrel riding and team roping will have the most Slackers, but larger rodeos out West will have Slackers in all seven events, according to rodeo officials.
The IPRA plans to make a return to Preble County for the 2017 fair. Fans are encouraged to support the Broken Horn Rodeo on their website at brokenhornrodeo.com to help bring the championships back to Preble County next year..
Reach Oliver Sanders at 937-683-4062 or on Twitter @osanders_RH