Cowboys, Cowgirls & Livestock
Each rodeo competitor must be a member of the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) or the Women's Pro Rodeo Association (WPRA), the "NFL" of rodeo. Each year, cowboys and cowgirls compete at numerous rodeos throughout the U.S., earning points and prize money in hopes of making it to the National Finals Rodeo held in Las Vegas annually in December. Only the top 15 competitors, the best of the best, earn the chance to compete at the National Finals.
However, it is not all about the cowboys and cowgirls. A rodeo would not be complete without the animal athletes. Horses, horses and more horses; well trained and true athletes in their own right, these icons of the west carry their riders through a variety of events such as calf roping, team roping, steer wrestling, steer roping and barrel racing. These animals are owned and cared for by their riders.
Cowboys test their skills on wild bucking horses and ferocious bulls, also known as "rough stock" hoping to “hang on” for that magic eight second ride. Like the rodeo athletes, rough stock also earns the right to perform at the National Finals. Again, only the best of the best move up. These valuable animals are owned and cared for by a certified stock contractor.
The names of cowboys and cowgirls who have registered to compete in this year’s Cave Creek Rodeo Days Rodeo will be provided when available. In the meantime, check out the biographies of competitors on the PRCA Website.
PRCA Rodeo Events
Rodeo is steeped in the tradition of the old west. Each event is in some way connected to the skills and abilities required on the working ranches and open range that are a part of our heritage. Today’s cowboys and cowgirls keep these skills alive, at home and in rodeo arenas across America. Whether a participant or a spectator, you will appreciate the skills and qualities of the athletes and animals that make rodeo the popular sport that it is. We hope you enjoy the Cave Creek Rodeo Days Rodeo events and its athletes.
Bareback Bronc riding is rough and explosive. The most physically demanding of all rodeo events, it is usually the first up at most rodeos. Cowboys ride untrained horses with no saddle or rein. They sit 'bareback' and hold tight to a leather rigging that looks like a heavy piece of rope with a suitcase handle on the end. The cowboys ride one handed and cannot touch their body or the horse with the free hand. As with saddle bronc riding the mark out rule is in effect. The cowboys spur the horse between shoulder and rigging, keeping in rhythm with the horse and trying for a qualifying ride of 8 seconds. Once the ride is complete, pick up men swoop in to 'pick up' the cowboy and set him safely to the ground.
Cowboys are judged on their control and spurring technique while the horses are judged on power, speed, and agility. Because of the power and quickness of the horse, cowboys take a great deal of punishment on their arm, neck and back. This is tough business!
Team Roping is the only two person event in rodeo in which each participant earns a score. Like tie down roping and saddle bronc riding, the origin of team roping is rooted in the ranch chores of the old west. On the ranch, the strength and size of the cattle required two ropers to catch and immobilize them for branding and doctoring. Today, team roping is a timed event that relies on the cooperation and skill of the cowboys and their horses.
In team roping, each cowboy has a different objective. As with other timed rodeo events, team ropers start from the roping box. The first cowboy out of the box, the header, does just what the name implies and ropes the head of the steer. Once the catch is made the header dallies, or wraps his rope around his saddle horn and turns the steer to the left. The second cowboy, the heeler, ropes the “heels” (back legs). The clock is stopped when ropes are tight, the steer is “stretched” and the horses are facing each other with their front feet on the ground.
Sound simple? Not so fast. Out of the box, if the barrier is broken too early a 10 second penalty is added to the time. If the heeler catches only one leg, that’s a 5 second penalty. And…. only three catches made by the header are legal; both horns, one horn and the head or all the way around the neck. Team roping requires coordination and cooperation between both riders and their horses. Truly a team effort, it’s a great event to watch and study!
Steer Wrestling also known as bulldogging is the quickest of the rodeo events. It requires strength, speed and timing. Cowboys compete against the clock and each other. Like tie-down and team ropers, bulldoggers begin in the roping box. When the cowboy nods his head the steer is released from the chute and off to the races they go, cowboy and horse chasing down the steer. The cowboy catches up to the steer as quickly as possible, leans off his horse and grabs the steer by its head. As he slides off his saddle, the bulldogger plants his feet and wrestles the steer to the ground. The clock stops when the steer is on its side.
Steer wrestlers require the use of another cowboy on horseback, the “hazer,” who keeps the steer running straight. Although a second cowboy is involved in this event, only the bulldogger gets the time. A winning time is usually between 3 to 4 seconds. Like the roping events described above, breaking the barrier early results in a 10 second penalty which effectively puts the cowboy out of the money.
Saddle Bronc is considered rodeo’s “classic event”. It requires the use of a specialized association saddle with free-swinging stirrups and no horn. The rider grips a single bronc rein braided from cotton or polyester and attached to a leather halter worn by the horse. The rider lifts the rein, attempting to find a rhythm with the animal by spurring forwards and backwards, reaching from the shoulder of the animal back to the cantle of the saddle. At no time can he touch the horse or himself with his free arm or hand. He cannot switch the rein to the other hand or lose a stirrup. As with bareback bronc riding, the mark out rule is in effect and an 8 second ride is required. When the ride is over the pick-up men race up beside the bronc and help the cowboy dismount and land safely on the ground. The cowboy is judged on his control and spurring technique. The horse is judged on its power, speed and agility. It takes both a good rider and a good horse to earn a top score.
Tie-down Roping once known as calf roping is the classic ranch chore of the old west. It is now one of the most competitive of rodeo events. Tie-down ropers compete against each other and the clock for prize money. Like steer wrestlers and team ropers, tie-down ropers begin in the roping box. The calf is released from a chute and the cowboy must rope it as quickly as possible. Like team roping, the calf is given a head start and if the barrier is broken too quickly the cowboy is penalized ten seconds. As soon as the catch is made the cowboy dismounts, sprints to the calf and tosses it on its side (called flanking). Using a small rope known as a pigging string, usually held in the cowboy's teeth, any three of the calf's legs are then securely tied. Time stops when the cowboy throws up his hands. Sound easy? It’s not over yet.
After the tie, the roper remounts his horse, puts slack in the rope and waits 6 seconds for the calf to struggle free. If it does, the cowboy receives a “no time” and is disqualified from the round. If the calf remains tied the cowboy receives his time.
Tie-down roping requires timing, speed, agility, strength and a well trained horse. Horses in the tie-down play a major role in the success of the competitor. They are trained to know when to start walking backward, keeping the rope taught and allowing the cowboy to do his business on the other end. It is amazing to watch as cowboy and horse compete together in this modern sporting event.
Barrel Racing is a timed event where speed matters most. Cowgirls compete in the arena against the clock and each other. Barrel racing is about cooperation between horse and rider.
Barrels are set up at three specific arena locations. Cowgirls enter the arena at full speed, quickly rounding each barrel in a cloverleaf pattern and then exiting the arena where they entered. An electronic timer records the ride to a hundredth of a second. Because speed equates to a winning time, riders steer their horses as close to the barrels as possible, attempting to shave precious seconds off the clock. For each barrel knocked over a 5 second penalty is assessed to the cowgirl’s total time. Leaving the barrels standing and ripping through the course is every barrel racers goal. These cowgirls ride with skill, grit and determination.
Bull Riding is perhaps the most recognized and popular of all rodeo events. It is also the most dangerous. With bull riding, the cowboys always say "it's not if you get hurt, but when”. Every bull rider can attest to the truth behind that saying.
As with bareback and saddle bronc riding, bull riders hang on with one hand and cannot touch the bull or their body with their free hand. Doing so results in a “no score”. To ride, cowboys use a bull rope and rosin. The bull rope is thickly braided, with a braided handle and a cowbell attached. The cowbell acts as a weight, allowing the rope to safely fall off the bull when the ride is over. Rosin is a sticky substance that increases the cowboy’s grip on their rope. The rope is wrapped around the bull, with the remaining tail secured tightly around the cowboy’s hand. This secures the cowboy to the bull. They become one…Sound fun?
Unlike the horse events, there is no mark out in bull riding. Cowboys can spur for extra points, but staying on the bull for a full 8 seconds is the hopeful priority! Judges score the event with up to 50 points awarded for the cowboy’s performance and 50 points for the bulls. A score of 100 is a “perfect ride” and seldom earned. Again, a top score depends on both the rider and the animal.
After the ride, the cowboy is aided by bullfighters (those rodeo clowns) and the barrel men who distract the bull, allowing the cowboys to escape safely. Riding a bull requires balance, flexibility, coordination and courage. Facing down a two-thousand pound animal takes as much mental preparation as it does physical ability. Bull riding has taken on a life of its own with the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) tour and its popularity shows no signs of slowing down.
Other Rodeo Professionals
Last but certainly not least are the people who work the rodeo during each rodeo performance, helping to ensure the safety of contestants and animals alike. These are the pickup men, flankmen, clowns and bull fighters, sound directors, announcers, judges, timers and the rodeo secretary.
Pickup men race in to help cowboys off the rough stock when their 8 second ride is complete. After assisting the cowboy they then loosen the flank strap that is tightened like a belt around the flank of the horse. Once the strap is pulled from the horse the pickup men herd the animal to the exit gate to clear the area for the next contestant. They also work to coax the bulls to the exit gate when their ride is done. While most spectators focus on the event participants, attention to the skills of the pickup men and their horse is well worth the attention. Pickup men are true cowboys who apply the roping and riding skills of the old west.
Cave Creek Rodeo Days Pickup Men & Flankmen:
Pickup Men: Chase Cervi & Randy Britton
Chase Cervi has been voted four times as the NFR pickup man and the 2016 Pickup Man of the Year, PRCA cowboys recognize that Chase has a hand at getting to riders quickly and helping them down safely. But what sets Chase apart from good to outstanding, is his soft heart and unbelievable memory. Chase ensures that all of their stock is treated with the best care possible in and out of the arena. He also has an innate ability for knowing every animal's tendencies and characteristics.
Flankmen: Chuck Kite & Scott Pickens
A flankmen has developed a special touch to be able to get the most buck out of each animal. He has developed the technique to a science by observing and understanding what is optimum for each of the individual animals. As a flankmen they communicate with rodeo production on which horses will go in either the saddlebronc or bareback event. He knows each animal’s individual needs and gives each cowboy the best chance at having good stock to ride. A flankmen is well respected by his rodeo peers for the detail he puts into his work.
BullFighters/Clowns have one mission – to protect the cowboys from the bulls. These skilled performers work as either bullfighters, barrel men or entertainer, each whose job is to distract the bull long enough to allow the cowboy to safely escape the arena. They sometimes place themselves in harm’s way, jeopardizing their own well being for the safety of the cowboy. Agile, athletic and pulling off some acrobatic moves, clowns entertain contestants and spectators alike! Who doesn’t love a rodeo clown!
Cave Creek Rodeo Days Clown/BarrelMan:
For 15 years, Matt Merritt has been entertaining thousands in arenas all over the nation. Some people call him a barrel man, others a rodeo clown He says his life is spent on the road with this makeup kit. "It means everything to me. I am 32 years old and I don't know how to do anything else. This is all I know." Merritt has a wife, and 3 children who sometimes travel with him. She has mixed feelings about his job. "It's hard. But you just got to trust him and believe that he's doing what he has to do to provide for us." Rope acts, dancing, and running from charging bulls is just another day at the office for Merritt. "I really don't think my job is that dangerous. The other guys here do more dangerous stuff than me." He says it takes a long time to switch between rodeo acts, and in that time, he's seeking everyone's attention.
Rider Kiesner has loved entertaining people from a young age. He has been wowing crowds with his trick roping, whip cracking, and gun spinning abilities for over the last twenty years. He has performed in 14 countries including China, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Oman, Lebanon as well as every state in America including Hawaii and Alaska. Rider has expanded his love for entertaining people by becoming a PRCA rodeo clown and barrel man 7 years ago.
Riders’ inspiration for clowning came from his dad who used to be a PRCA rodeo clown and barrel man. Rider learned a lot from his dad and still calls him before every performance for tips. While one of Rider’s jobs is to make people laugh, he also has a much more serious job which is to be his bullfighter’s “backup” and to help keep the bull rider safe, he does this in the arena during the bull riding in his Coors barrel. Rider has clowned at a lot of great rodeos as well as the Mountain State Circuit Finals and the Prairie Circuit Finals. He was nominated by his peers to be a 2020 top five Coors Man in the Can.
Cave Creek Rodeo Days BullFighters:
Jimmy Lee was born and raised in Lowake, Texas, and spent his childhood in a farming and ranching environment. After high school he went to college and attended firefighting school.
It was there that he developed a passion for helping people caught up in dire situations. He says, “As fulfilling as firefighting was, it kept me away from the cowboy culture I was born and raised in.” Jimmy found his way back to the cowboy life and in the sport of rodeo as a bull rider in his mid-twenties. His career in bull riding was short-lived but routed him back to his passion. By developing his art and athleticism as a bullfighter, the 34-year-old Lee is able to attain both of his goals: helping people and staying close to the cowboy culture through the sport of rodeo. In three short years he has accomplished a lot in his event in both the PRCA and the Professional Bull Riders Association.
Chasing dreams and making them come true has been Jacob Welker’s passion for bullfighting and life. He has been around rodeo his whole life and has always wanted to be a bullfighter since the very beginning. He remembers sitting through slack when they would have bull riding, and he would never move because he was so fascinated by the bullfighters.
Now he is living the dream and loving every minute of it traveling all over most of the Midwest fighting at many PRCA rodeos. One thing he tells every child that he encounters is, to have dreams and to chase them because there is no greater feeling than living your dream.
Welker, from Abbyville, Kansas is starting to make a name for himself and learning from the best guys in the business to further his career. Although with fighting bulls for over a handful of years now, he has been selected to work many KPRA, CPRA, college rodeos, Kansas Junior High and High School State Finals. He also spent a summer up in Cody, Wyoming where he fought bulls everyday in July.
Welker, who graduated from Fort Hays State University in 2017 with a Degree in Recreation and Sports Management, but is focusing on making his career in bullfighting. With getting his PRCA card, he has big plans in the upcoming years ahead. This year is going to be a big year because he will be traveling all over the Midwest and even up to Montana and Utah and also the amateur rodeos as well. When Jacob is not on the rodeo road, he is working full time at a feed mill close to home. Jacob has many goals set for bullfighting in his career, and just like any other bullfighter he wants to work the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Music Director Well, you got to have some good rodeo jams, right? We think so! A music director controls the audio, sound and selects tunes to keep the crowd excited! Their roles entail arranging, mastering, mixing and supervising the recordings played during each event. They work closely with the production team including the announcers, clowns, barrel men, bull fighters and contestants to produce the best sound at a rodeo.
Cave Creek Rodeo Days Sound Director:
Announcers keep us informed of what is happening in the arena. Well versed in the sport of rodeo they educate, inform and entertain. With a bird’s eye view of the arena and chutes they keep track of events, contestants, animal athletes, scores and times. They serve as host for the evening’s event, lead us in honoring the American Flag, and banter with the clowns. They are the thread that weaves it all together.
Cave Creek Rodeo Days Announcer:
As member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, since 1995, Doug Mathis is ranked as one of the top announcers in the country.
In a career filled with highlights, including the 2005 Dodge National Circuit Finals in Pocatello Idaho and the 2009 National Finals Steer Roping. Doug has acquired a resume' that will rival all other competitors.
Raised in a ranching family outside Cleburne, Texas, Doug never dreamed that rodeo would be his life's calling. "I just loved everything about it. I can remember Bernis Johnson (B-J Rodeo) running me off the back of the chutes when I was a kid." His rodeo career began as many other announcers...as a competitor. Doug rode bulls in high school and advanced on to the collegiate level at Tarleton State University, where he was elected Bull Riding Director by his peers.
The years of hard work and dedication paid off in 1995 when two of Doug's longtime heroes, Hall of Fame Announcers Clem McSpadden and Bob Tallman, agreed to sponsor him for membership in the PRCA. Only 4 years later, he was invited onto the media staff for Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, a position he still holds to date. Since his inception into ProRodeo, Doug's list of accomplishments include: 2005 Dodge National Circuit Finals, National Finals Steer Roping, Mountain States Circuit Finals (2x), Mountain States Circuit Finals Steer Roping (4x), Prairie Circuit Finals, National Circuit Finals Steer Roping (3x, Ft. Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, TV Host for The Altitude Channel at the Greeley Independence Day Stampede, 6x Finalist for the PRCA's "Announcer of the Year" title.
Judges have an important role in Rodeo. Without the judges there would be no scores and without the scores there would be no winners! Depending upon the event, you might see the judges on horseback or a-foot. Among their numerous responsibilities are evaluating the contestants and the animals in each event, as both may earn a score. During the roping and wrestling events they monitor the barrier rope to ensure a fair start for the calf or steer. The calves are timed in the tie-down to ensure that their legs are securely tied for at least 6 seconds. Perhaps most importantly, judges ensure the humane treatment of animals. These are but a few of the many rules of rodeo. If interested in learning more, ask a committee member and they will be happy to explain.
Timers like two peas in a pod, there are always two timers during each rodeo performance. These roles typically work hand-in-hand with the rodeo secretary and the timed event boss, keeping a clock on all timed events. These two roles must be very well in tune with everything taking place during a rodeo as well as fair in their timed recordings. They use stopwatches to record elapsed time for each ride, and also ensure that, during rough stock events, the riders remain on the animal for eight full seconds.
Rodeo Secretary if rodeo gave out a most valuable player award, it would go to the rodeo secretary every time! These are the hard-working folks that the crowd will never see. They help anticipate problems and provide solutions, keep contestants in line, tally the results, write checks, lend a hand where needed and whatever else gets thrown their way!