Boys will be cowboys …
RIFLE – From as far away as Louisiana, young wranglers converged on Rifle yesterday to test their skills in the Little Britches Rodeo.Comprised of 25 different scored events, with 144 competitors (with boys and girls divisions for most events), the rodeo will continue until Sunday night.But most of the participants are used to the grueling schedule. The rodeo circuit runs year-round: after the annual finals take place in August, the competitions begin anew only two weeks later. The age range for these youngsters is 5 to 18.
And many dedicated young cowboys and cowgirls simply stay on the road continuously, like 8-year-old Brett Custer, son of the successful bullrider Cody Custer.”We’ve been on the road since school let out on May 25,” said Stacy Custer, Brett’s mother.Brett, who made the trip from Arizona, is already a rodeo veteran. He’s only a few points away from qualifying in two events for the Nationals, which will be held in Pueblo this year. He’s competed in so many rodeos that he can’t remember them all.
What he does know, however, is that he wants to ride bulls when he’s old enough, just like his father.”I’m going to ride bulls next year. Dad’s going to let me,” said Brett, despite his mother’s obvious look of concern.That’s right. Brett will be 9 years old and competing in steer riding, the difference being that steers are smaller and less dangerous than bulls. In the Little Britches Rodeo, kids as young as 8 can ride steers competitively, and once they reach 14, they can climb aboard full-grown bulls.
But riding bulls is hardly the only event. Ray and Gloria Boucher drove 10 hours from their home near Las Vegas to bring their children, Kameron, 11, and Kayla, 14, to this weekend’s rodeo. The Boucher siblings train year-round for six separate events.”That’s all they do, is rodeo and school,” said Ray. The Boucher backyard is set up just like a rodeo lot, Ray added, so the kids can practice every day.”These kids work real hard,” said Gloria.
But many kids don’t even think of it as work. When asked if he’s been looking forward to this weekend, Kameron Boucher mutters a shy “yeah,” but at the same time, his eyes light up when he thinks about rodeo.But with such devotion and spirit, do parents see the rodeo as perhaps overly competitive?Not at all, says Christie Corzine. Her daughter, 12-year-old Samantha Corzine, competes in seven events, and they drove up from the San Luis Valley to enter the rodeo.
“It’s not cutthroat at all,” said Corzine. The competitive edge is definitely there, but it’s tempered with camaraderie and sportsmanship to the degree that “they all help each other out,” she added.
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Down 14-7 with less than 11 minutes left in regulation, Rifle head coach Todd Casebier decided it was time to deviate from his ground-and-pound offense for a bit of an aerial attack.