Youth get a shot at ranch rodeo competition | TSLN.com
Tamara Choat
for Tri-State Livestock News

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Youth get a shot at ranch rodeo competition

The Spur of the Moment Ranch Rodeo in Terry, Mont., came about much the way it sounds – as a last-minute event to offer women's ranch rodeo teams an additional qualifier for the Winnemucca finals. But in the quickly and successfully organized event, executed in just 10 days, an additional idea developed – a youth ranch rodeo competition.

"Initially we just wanted to have another women's ranch rodeo to give gals another chance to qualify for Winnemucca," said committee member Sam Kortum of Terry, Mont. "In the process we thought it would be a good idea to do a kids competition. Kids always travel with the parents and we thought it would be a cool opportunity to give them a chance to compete as well."

The inaugural event saw six teams of youth 18 years old and under competing in four events: team penning, team branding, team doctoring and the water race. Competitors' ages ranged from the youngest at 12, to older high schoolers. Teams were required to be a mix of girls and boys. Most – but not all – of the youth had moms competing in the days' events.

Russ Hilliard of Miles City competed on Team Dally O, ending up in second place. Hilliard plans to compete again this year in Terry, and said he likes the team branding event best. "It's kind of something I get practiced up for in the spring," he said. Like many of the other youth competing, Hilliard knows his way around a horse inside and outside of an arena and has experienced the "ranch work" aspect of the rodeo angle.

The event format and rules were almost identical to adult ranch rodeos, with a three minute time limit on all events. In team penning, contestants were assigned a cattle number and had to sort and pen three marked head out of a group of 15. No more than five head could be across the line, or "out of the kitchen," at one time.

In team branding there was one assigned roper, two wrestlers and one brander. Teams roped two unassigned head of calves. Once a roped calf crossed the line, wrestlers had to lay it down and pull the rope before the brander marked it with a chalk brand. Time ended when the branding iron returned to the bucket. Single hocks were allowed, but any high hocks had to be removed before being drug across the line.

In the team doctoring one steer was turned in to the arena; competitors had to head and heel it with legal head catches, throw it down, string it and remove the head rope, then mark it with a paint stick to simulate a shot.

According to Kortum, the water race was added as a competitive "fun" event the first year to get the kids' teams broke in and having fun. In the race all team members were horseback and, using plastic cups, had to scoop water out of a 5-gallon bucket set on a barrel and fill a second bucket on the other side of the arena. "It really takes a lot of teamwork, and it's pretty entertaining," said Kortum. Participants keep scooping, riding, and circling back until the second bucket is full.

"Our goal was another opportunity for the women, but we ended up being more excited for the kids' thing – it's so great to watch those kids competing and doing what they watch us do," said Kortum.

Each youth event was held following the corresponding women's event throughout the day. And, despite the younger age and skill level, no compensations were made in the youth rules.

"We really tried to keep it as similar as we could," said Kortum. "We talked about ways we could maybe give the kids a little break, like in the team penning, if they got too many cattle across we'd let them start over, or maybe they didn't have to string up the steer, but we didn't end up doing that. They did a really good job. It was also important to us to make them feel like they were doing the same thing we were, and they really stepped up."

Entry fees were $100 for kids' teams, and the top three teams received money back, as well as t-shirts, sweatshirts and other prizes.

Placing on the winning team was Bailey Kortum, the 16-year-old daughter of Sam and her husband, Tim Kortum, of Terry. Kortum has grown up watching her parents compete, and was excited to get her chance in the arena.

"We've always been there with them, and it was fun to finally have the chance to do the same thing," she said. "[My teammates and I] plan to do it again this year; we just want to keep getting better, and we know what to expect now."

Bailey's younger sister Loni, 14, kept with the family tradition coming in on the second place team.

Sam Kortum said this year they will likely add another event or two, in particular an additional roping event. "The kids are already asking when we're going to do it again, and what events we're going to have this year. It was really a success – we're definitely going to keep doing it."

Kortum said even in the short timeframe it was advertised, the committee had calls from kids as far away as Nevada asking for more information and if they could enter. Texas and Oklahoma both have youth ranch rodeo associations, and a search showed a youth competition in Idaho. However, as far as anyone knows, this is the first and only youth ranch rodeo in Montana, and possibly the region. It likely could start an entire new category of competition for kids who have grown up with a rope in their hand, watching.

"The biggest thing is these youth have the guidance and encouragement from adults, the same ones they are helping and working with," said Kortum. "It's also so important to get these kids involved and give them an opportunity to do what we do every day. It keeps our heritage alive."

The Spur of the Moment Women's and Youth Ranch Rodeo will be held July 29 this year at 2 p.m. at the Prairie County Fairgrounds in Terry. Entries opened to the first eight women's teams and six youth teams on July 10 by calling Lavetta Weeding at 406-557-2313. Youth competitions were also added to the Jordan, Mont., and Miles City, Mont., ranch rodeos this year.

For more information or questions about how to organize a similar event, Sam Kortum is available at 406-951-3698.