Eastern Montana Ranch Rodeo Gives Young Hands an Opportunity to Compete | TSLN.com

Eastern Montana Ranch Rodeo Gives Young Hands an Opportunity to Compete

Ruth Wiechmann
for Tri-State Livestock News

Eastern Montana Ranch Rodeo Finals is giving high school kids a chance to use their cowboy skills in competition. For the past three years the EMRRF has held Junior Ranch Rodeos along with Open and Women’s contests.

“The whole Ranch Rodeo is a family affair,” said Lavetta Weeding, Jordan, Montana, who was instrumental in starting the youth competitions. “The kids were coming along anyway so we came up with a way for them to have their own competition. We started having Junior rodeos three years ago and have held finals for the last two seasons. As far as I know, we’re the only ones with a separate youth division.”

Rules get tweaked slightly and safety is kept in mind when the Junior Rodeos are planned; the competition is similar to the Open division but has a few differences. For instance, the kids may only be expected to brand one calf versus two tackled by the Open competitors. A time limit is set for each event, but not a loop limit. The Jordan, Montana, rodeo had a counting competition, where the kids had to herd a group of steers through cones and get an accurate head count, something the adult ranch rodeo did not include. For safety reasons, the kids don’t get to ride broncs. Smaller, younger steers are used to keep things safer and easier but still competitive for the youth teams.

“We have eight rodeos in our circuit,” said Chele Harrington, Fallon, Montana. “They were held in Miles City, Jordan, two in Circle, Broadus, Terry, Ingomar and Glasgow. Miles City, Jordan, Circle, Terry and Ingomar each hosted a Junior Ranch Rodeo that qualified teams to participate at the Eastern Montana Ranch Rodeo finals in the Juniors division.”

The finals were moved from Miles City to Terry this year, and in spite of monsoon conditions during the Open Ranch Rodeo on Saturday, September 7th, feedback was positive.

“Everybody liked having it in Terry,” Chele said. ”My husband was on a team so he was outside the arena most of the day. He didn’t hear a single person complain about the weather, or hear a single person say we should have moved it to a bigger town or an indoor arena.”

Five Youth teams competed at the Eastern Montana Ranch Rodeo Finals on Sunday, September 8th. First place went to the Bighorn Bandits from the Hardin area. The Y Lazy S team from Miles City took second, Blazing Saddles from the Jordan area earned third place, the Mid Rivers team from the Terry area placed fourth, and the Black Butte Brisbys from the Lewiston area placed fifth.

“We paid places one through five,” said Mary Schaefer, who secretaried the finals. “We had some good sponsors, including Tandi Jesperson and Curvey Ranch Girl Clothing and Tack; Godsey Saddlery donated spur straps, and we purchased buckles through other sponsorship donations.”

Jaxon Hauk, son of Mike and Tracy Hauk from Miles City, put together a team with three friends two years ago. The Y Lazy S team’s name came from his dad’s brand.

“I really enjoy ranch rodeo because my friends are on my team and I like competing with them,” Jaxon said. “I know a lot of people that compete on the adult and women’s teams that I only get to see at the ranch rodeos. My favorite event is the doctoring; it’s like team roping without a chute. I like to rope, so it’s pretty fun.”

Jaxon said his favorite thing about going to a ranch rodeo is watching the horses.

“Everybody brings their best horse to town, and you get to see how well they handle cattle,” he said.

“Last year, and at the start of this year I rode a big black horse we call Lobo. He’s the same horse I use for heading. I took him to a jackpot team roping right before the Jordan rodeo and he came up sore, so I had to make a last-minute adjustment.

“My new horse had never been in an arena before. He’s an old ranch horse that came from my dad’s close friend in South Dakota. We call him Bay. He was around the place just sitting and not getting used so I decided to hop on him one day. He’s really fun to ride. You don’t have to hardly do anything when you’re working cows. He does what needs to be done by himself. It’s just him and the cow.”

Still, Jaxon was unsure how his horse would perform in an area setting.

“That first time I rode the Bay horse our first event was team sorting. I had no idea how good or bad he would do. I rode in to cut three steers out and he did great. We ended up winning by over ten seconds!”

Jaxon said his family will be moving to South Dakota, so he will not be able to continue competing in the Junior Ranch Rodeos in Montana next year, but he plans to continue with High School Rodeo and might try to get on an open ranch rodeo team with his uncle.

Danny Phipps, son of Clayton and Lisa Phipps, Bruzett, Montana, takes his experience on the family ranch to town to compete on the Blazing Saddles team. He and his teammates took their team’s name from the movie, Blazing Saddles. Danny has been competing for three years, and says he definitely plans to continue.

“I like how the events are easier, more at a kids’ level,” he said, “And I just like roping.

“Trailering is my favorite event. We do it one of two ways: either they let a steer out and you have to head him and load him and then load two horses, or else you have to sort a steer out of the herd and then do the exact same thing.

“My horse is kind of an ugly little guy, just a short little brown horse I call Casino. He tracks steers really well and has a weird personality. But he’s pretty special. He gives one hundred and ten no matter what you ask of him.

“I got a lucky loop at the finals in Terry. We were sorting off our steer and I started building a loop, and the steer headed back for the herd. We had him across the line, and if he went back across I couldn’t rope him, so I just threw my loop. I got lucky and caught him.”

Bailey and Loni Kortum, sisters from Terry, Montana, says that ranch rodeo is definitely a family affair for them. Their parents, Tim and Sam Kortum, have competed in ranch rodeos since the girls can remember.

“We grew up on the ranch and my parents went to a ranch rodeo almost every weekend,” Loni said. “My sister and I got to take our horses along and we got a feel for it.”

“I’ve grown up with it all my life,” Bailey said, “So I was obviously interested in it. I had competed in the open previously, and when they started the Junior division I put a team together and we competed for a couple of years. Now I’m too old for the Junior level so I compete in the Women’s division on a team with my mom and a couple other ladies.”

Loni started competing in the Junior division two years ago and hasn’t looked back. Teammates include Hannah and Holly Porter, and Blayne Hubing, who took the place of Cole Neal who competed with them for the first year and a half. They christened the team ‘Running Wild’ knowing they were stepping out into something new where they’d have to go with the flow as they learned. Mid Rivers Communications sponsored their team, so now they are known as the Mid Rivers team, but Loni says they are still ‘Running Wild’ at heart.

Her horse is a mare they raised.

“I grew up with a really solid ranch horse, but he’s twenty-two now so I had to find something else. We got a stud from my aunt and bred a mare we had and raised Ruby from a colt and had her trained. I started ranch rodeo about the same time I started riding her. We use her on the ranch for pretty much everything: we rope off her, brand and gather.”

Loni said her favorite event is the trailer loading because it involves a little more action than some of the others.

“This summer we were doing a trailer race where you have to rope a steer, load him in the trailer, shut the center gate, then load two horses in the back. We got the steer loaded and were taking the rope off, but we hadn’t got the center gate latched all the way so the steer followed us right out of the trailer! We all just bailed on him and managed to shove him back in!”

Ranch Rodeo continues to be a family event for the Kortum clan.

“Both my parents are on an open team and my mom and sister are on a women’s team,” Loni said “I can compete in the Junior division for another two years. I’ve really bonded with others at the ranch rodeos. We get so much help and guidance from the adults who are there. It’s definitely something I enjoy and look forward to.”