It was family time around the Rodeo arena Friday when 200 participants turned out
for the Gila River Indian Communities’ annual Junior Rodeo sponsored by the Mul-Chu-Tha
Festival and Rodeo in Sacaton, Arizona. Everything is scaled down in the Junior Rodeo for the
next generation of Cowgirls and Cowboys, there are contests for ages six through seventeen.
Stick horse racing is introduced early as five year olds push their steeds through their paces around
the red pylons, there were a few falls, some tears, but everyone a winner.
Barrell racing was again a question of scale, with thirty-five pound cowgirls, pushing these 900 pound horses through their route. Still the mutton busting capture your heart and imagination. The gate would open and these bags of wool on legs come running out and mostly you can’t see the rider buried in all the wool, until they rolled off onto the ground. Many just lied there unmoving, and mothers would rush out but mostly they shook it off, with a few tears, but many took it in stride and moved on. Junior Rodeos
are made up of all the Indian rodeo talents in the State of Arizona the same folks hit many the
same rodeos coming in from Whiteriver, Windowrock, Sells, or San Carlos, Arizona representing
the Apache, Navajo and O’odham Tribes like the Tohono, PeePosh, Akimel, Maricopa are all Piman
tribes. These talented contestants get their start at Junior Rodeos and Sacaton’s rodeo gave all the
little guys and gals all the time they needed and encouraged everyone to participate. Few showed
but a few tears were shed over the steer riding. All riders wear a protective vest which one steer
was able to hook and twirl his rider over it’s head on its horn. That rider was a bit dizzy. There were a
few hard falls, but no injuries, there was however an arm cast or two in the crowd. There were some
very professional riders who scored well and finished lst, 2nd, 3rd, others got their share of hard knocks
and some great experience. These guys and gals will work for the next year to hone these cowboy skills and next year they will be a little bigger and the lasso a little smaller and a little easier to throw…..
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