Rodeo is a fast moving sport, where hundredths of seconds count like an eternity and moments go by in a blur. Action, speed, and unpredictability all intertwine and clamor for the attention of those following the goings-on. Behind it all, though, there is a rustic grace and beauty that is easily overlooked for the flying hooves and dizzyingly fast runs. It’s not all in what you see — sometimes there is more of a story in what is quietly hidden from view.

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A rider quietly prays behind the chutes. His petition is not for a buckle or prize, but for divine protection in the arena, his life in the hands of his creator atop the creature he was born to ride.

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Tack is immaculately kept and tediously prepared, each piece proudly emblazoned with the brand of its owner. The Circle-I designates the legendary Cervi Championship rodeo stock from Greeley, CO, and it is worn proudly by personnel and stock alike.

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Stock is carefully and deliberately loaded into chutes. Each has its own distinct style and form. A turn to the left out of the chute or an initial leap into the arena — they animal athletes are as ready as the riders who have prepared for their noted moves. Still, there is no telling.

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Be it a perfect match or a train wreck in waiting, the die is cast and pairings are set. There won’t be any surprises… until the chute flies open.

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Everything has to be perfectly ready. Every possibility for unpredictability must be removed. Every preparation must be in exactly the right order.

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Then the wait begins. Amidst the turmoil and noise, a still, quiet resolve. Each rider, each roper playing out the potentials in their head. Each passing moment the tension mounts. There is only one thought: to be ready.

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Young and old alike wait in anticipation. Even the participant becomes a fan watching the action unfold, and the fan becomes a participant, cheering on anyone would dare take a nod to open the gate.

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And for each, their moment comes. With steel and resolve, every effort is made to ensure a clean, safe, exciting ride. Hearts beat in anticipation, chests swell, and second thoughts flash, but to no avail. Each participant is there for one reason. They were born for this.

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Buckoff or covered ride, missed loop or arena record, everyone leaves the dirt hoping they’ve done their best. There’s always a lesson for next time, but each ride is its own defining mark, and all a part of the story.

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That’s what we take from this. The story. It’s what we share and pass on to our children. It’s what puts a smile on our face in the dead of winter. It’s not always triumph and success, but hard work and an honest effort. It’s an unexplainable thing until you feel it in your heart, and it never leaves.

072815_09682You can see a cowboy’s score, but you have to like much closer to see the most important thing. His heart.

Long live rodeo.

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