Cowboys and skiing |

Cowboys and skiing

It’s winter in the Rocky’s, and skiing has been enjoyed across Tri-State Country by thousands as deep snows have provided excellent downhill conditions. Mixing a bunch of wild cowboys up with hats, chaps, ski’s, ski poles and slick slopes is a recipe for chaos, but they do it every January at Steamboat Springs, CO.

For 35 years now, cowboys on hand for Denver’s historic National Western Stock Show Rodeo have flocked to the slopes to see what this mountain sport is all about. Some of them are skiers, many aren’t. This year some 60 cowboys and cowgirls showed up to face off in slick, icy, 30-degree conditions. When the snow spray had settled and the yelling was over, Wyoming bull rider Jed Moore of Cheyenne emerged at the top of the heap.

That was more or less a literal translation, since Steamboat staff had installed fences this year preventing anyone from avoiding the jump; which some had chosen to do in the past. ProRodeo Sports News writer Johnna Espinoza noted, “Roughly the second half of the field ended up in various wrecks, skids and slides, while novice and some first-time competitors couldn’t stay upright coming off the jump.”

Sounds like great watching, and the cast was star-studded with a flock of seasoned old-timer’s like 1981 World Champ Bareback Rider J.C. Trujillo, ’82 World Champ Bull Rider Charlie Sampson, ’70 World Champ Bull Rider Gary Leffew and six-time All Around champ Larry Mahan on deck; along with celebrities like PRCA Commissioner and CEO Karl Stressman and rodeo announcers Bob Feist and John Shipley. Charlie Daniels and his band entertained in conjunction with the event… though a lot of the crowd may not have been able to dance after their day on the slopes!

The Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund benefits from this fun event, which annually raises a sizable contribution. We tip our ol’ Tri-State Stetson to Wyoming cowboy Jed Moore for appearing at 13th in PRCA Bull Riding standings this week, as well as winning both the dual slalom and Wild Stampede Race at the Cowboy Downhill. It was his 12th year to participate at Steamboat. The Dual Slalom features paired competitors skiing through three upper gates, a 6-foot drop jump and four lower gates, after which they rope a Steamboat employee, saddle a horse, and sprint to the finish.

We’ve already noted Moore’s appearance in the PRCA World Standings and I hope you’re all aware that Tri-State Country is really dominating the rough stock events there! Chambers, NE hand, multiple Linderman Award-winner Kyle Whitaker, leads the All Around race. Bareback standings find Colorado rider Tim Shirley on top, with that state appearing a couple more times in the top 20, along with South Dakota and Wyoming. Jake Rinehart holds the bulldogging lead for South Dakota, with Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana hands joining him in the top 20. Half of the top 20 in bronc riding are from Tri-State country, with four from South Dakota and others from North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana. Wyoming bull riders hold 1st, 2nd, 6th-8th, and 13th slots, with North and South Dakota also in the top 20 for that event.

Speakin’ of great rodeo hands from our region, we send prayers and encouragement to Brian and Lisa Fulton. Reserve World Champ bulldogger of 1996, Brian is on the road to recovery from late January surgery in Omaha, where doctors believe they were able to remove all cancer from his brain. You can contact them through Care Pages which Lisa is keeping updated at

Legislatures across our region have been dealing with horse-related bills of late. Both Montana and North Dakota have bills on the docket to authorize horse packing plants. House Bill 418 in Montana is supported by Ed Butcher, Minority Vice Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and was slated for a legislative hearing Thursday the 12th. Hopefully a large turnout of supporters was on hand in Helena to support the bill; I have received no word yet on the outcome of that hearing.

The North Dakota bill had a legislative assembly hearing on Feb. 6, reportedly without serious opposition. There seems to be a lot of support for both bills from horse people in the respective states and bordering states. Animal activists continue to oppose wherever possible, convinced they’re “saving” horses and refusing to accept the cold hard facts of the suffering equines are being forced into because of packing plant closures nationwide.

Friend and longtime horseman and horse historian Frank Holmes from Colorado wrote a letter of support to North Dakota legislator Kilowkowski. Speaking of the possible lack of perfection in the packing plants which were closed, Frank noted, “…The answer to the problem of inadequate oversight was not to get rid of all the slaughter facilities… This has resulted in… and these facts have been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt… the complete devaluation of horses as an economic entity AND their subsequent sale and/or abandonment to a fate that is… literally… worse than death… As a direct result of the closing of all U.S. slaughter facilities, cheap horses are being peddled to a socio-economic class of people that have neither the means nor the compassion to adequately care for them; they are being starved, abused and abandoned by the tens of thousands. Let North Dakota lead the way back to sanity on this issue.”

I can only echo a hearty “Amen” to that.

In Wyoming, a “Lottery for Education” bill was defeated 35-25 in the House on Monday the 9th. It was a bill that could’ve improved Wyoming horse racing purses and opportunities. A similar bill came before the Colorado legislature. These bills provide for other forms of gambling at horse racing tracks, providing revenue to the states while keeping existing racetracks operational thus providing jobs and economic benefit to the areas where tracks are located.

New Mexico has a fancy new horse racing facility opening at Raton this year. If the Colorado measures are not enacted, most racing insiders believe the many financial benefits of the industry in state will disappear over the state line to the south.

As we near the end of our ol’ lariat rope we need to let you know longtime Montana rancher and horseman 83-year-old Freeman Peabody rode across the Great Divide Feb. 5th. I imagine he’s back to relay racing or picking up broncs by now, happy to trade his nursing home bed for a good horse and saddle. Farewells were said at Stevenson Funeral Home in Ekalaka February 9th and a memorial is established to the Dahl Memorial Nursing Home in Ekalaka. You can read Freeman’s obituary and sign the guest book at Our thoughts and prayers are with Barbara and the rest of the family.

© 2009 rhonda stearns

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