LONG BEACH – The Surf ‘N Saddle junior rodeo brought Northwest Junior Rodeo Association competitors to Long Beach last weekend, Aug. 3-4. A hundred twenty-five kids of almost all ages entered the event, divided into Buckaroo (five and under) Pee Wee (6-8), Junior (9-13) and Senior (14-18) age groups.

Though there is some overlap, junior rodeo features a very different slate of events than the adult version. Especially at the younger age levels, events are designed to teach the basic skills needed for success on the adult tour, such as horse-riding, dismounting, and handling semi-wild animals.

The pole bend was a harsh test, providing plenty of rough moments. Competitors from the Pee Wee age on up are already proficient riders, easily able to stay on and control a fast-moving horse. But weaving through poles challenges young riders’ skills, forcing them to learn smooth changes of direction. Even a cooperative, well-intentioned horse can get going too far in one direction, going off course, knocking down a pole, or forcing the rider to bring it to a jarring halt. The event shows just how difficult it is to attain the smoothness of top rodeo riders, who seem to share a mind with their horses.

Some competitors managed to complete the event error free. Karsen Ogg took first place at the Pee Wee level. Reese Anderson took first among juniors. Brandi Chambers led seniors, edging Long Beach’s Reece Pierson.

Subduing semi-wild animals is a task the junior rodeo eases kids into. The goat, probably the least-powerful rodeo animal, is one used for teaching youngsters, who must ride as quickly as they can toward a tethered goat, dismount, run it down and gain control over it. Buckaroo riders need merely to remove a ribbon from the goat, pee wees have to wrestle it to the ground and hold three of its legs together, and older kids must tie a knot around three legs. On the adult rodeo circuit, these competitors will have to chase the goat around the arena on horseback before tying it down.

Some of the older boys contended with tougher animals. In the senior division, Caden Cunningham was the only competitor in bull-riding. In the junior division, Cash Juhl was the only steer rider. Payton Segerman was the only competitor in wild cow milking, an event in which the contestant and a partner chase a cow down on horseback and subdue it, and the contestant fills a bottle with milk.

Pierson took third place in the weekend’s senior girls’ point standings. She was joined by her niece, Mallory Morrison, whose third birthday will be later this month and who was in her fourth event.

The overall points leaders were: Ashley Kulp (Buckaroo), Jenna Lynn Bustad (Pee Wee), Jules Auman (junior girls), Jonah Bustad (junior boys), Brandi Chambers (senior girls) and Payton Segerman (senior boys).

Aaron Mead is a sports writer for the Chinook Observer. Contact him at 360-642-8181 or aaroncmead@gmail.com.

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