What do Houston, San Antonio and Fort Worth have in common? If you’re guessing rodeo, you’re definitely on the right track.
These three cities are home to the three biggest rodeos in Texas, and rodeo season is officially underway. San Antonio and Fort Worth’s rodeos wrapped up in February, but Houston’s rodeo is still happening.
Throughout the spring, Texans can also visit smaller rodeos in Austin, San Angelo, Killeen and a whole lot more. If you’ve never been to a rodeo and need some help figuring out how to get started, well, we’ve got you covered.
Joe Dodge has been competing in the calf roping event for over 20 years, since he was a teenager. Dodge said every rodeo hosts the same slate of competition events.
“Bull riding is everybody’s fan favorite,” he said. “The ladies will have the barrel race. You’ll have two more rough stock events and the horse riding — the bareback and the saddle bronc. And then you’ll have the rest of your timed events — the tie down calf roping, which is my event, team roping and steer wrestling.”
Dodge said for the rough stock events, judges rank the difficulty of the animal and the competency of the contestant.
“There’s judges that will stand out there and they score the horse or the bull from 1 to 50 degree of difficulty of ride and then score the rider for 1 to 50 technique — if he’s in control, if he looks like he’s out of shape, if he’s just looking up there like there’s a whole lot of mess going on,” he said. “Judges will put their tallies together, 1 to 50 and 1 to 50 for each, and then you’ll get your total score.”
Dodge also addressed common concerns about animal welfare in the rodeo setting, saying often these fears come from a lack of knowledge about how rodeo works.
“Those animals are how we make our living and how we get to carry on our culture. There’s an exorbitant amount of rules that actually are put in by contestants and committees to promote the welfare and the longevity of animals,” he said. “I would say get educated and then go spend some time actually with somebody in the industry. I bet you’d be pretty surprised on how well a lot of stuff is actually taken care of.”
For those who have never been to a rodeo before, Dodge said he always recommends checking out a big one and a small one both.
“Go to the big one first, and go see all the sights. Because there’s going to be a giant carnival, there’s going to be all kinds of vendors coming through and wanting to sell products. It’s just a big crowd. Everybody’s in a good mood. Hang out, see the big name entertainers,” he said. “But then take your time and find a local rodeo and go support small town businesses and people that are going to support your kids in the community. Those little rodeos like that are going to have people from the next town over and are from your local fire department, from your local police department. They’re always supporting troops.”
Dodge said rodeos are fun for the whole family and he encourages people to bring their kids to enjoy the spectacle.
And as for a dress code?
“Man, we’d love to see you in some pants and boots and a hat,” Dodge said. “But, hey, it takes all kinds. Come as you are. We’re just happy that you’re there.”