Ranch Rodeo is a team format of cowboys and cowgirls from different ranches competing against each other in events that replicate everyday work done on a ranch. Contestants are working ranch hands and this is their way to relax and have a little fun after a hard day’s work! This is a chance to showcase their talents. It’s fun and very competitive!
Hundreds of ranches are for the most part still worked on horseback. Cowboys and Cowgirls move cattle, rope, and sort on a regular basis. Prairies and pastures don't have big screens with instant replay; therefore, ranch rodeos are a chance to see a close representation of what cowhands do every day on the range. Ranch rodeos differ from traditional rodeos. Events represent things commonly done on a ranch: Bronc Riding, Wild Cow Milking, Branding, Doctoring and Trailering.
The contestants are typically not professional rodeo cowboys, although some are! Just to mention one: Sarah Scott Verhelst from S Ranch, who won Top Hand in 2018 NILE Ranch Rodeo, ranches with her husband and kids doing ranch stuff every day of her life. She is also a women’s professional breakaway roper ranked as one of the top ropers in the world for 2021. Sarah typifies and showcases the talent, abilities and versatility of a rancher, whether at a rodeo or on the ranch.
Professional rodeo has roots in ranch work - roping a calf, wrestling a steer, riding a bronc, but have transformed the events into athletic competitions. Professional cowboys fine-tune their equipment for better performance. Ranch Rodeo contestants use the same equipment and tack they use every day, designed for function and efficiency.
Contestants in ranch rodeos compete as a team representing their ‘brand’, which means the ranch they work for and bragging rights that they are the Best. Essential to winning is the innate ability for cowboy's to read each other and to read the cattle. This means they know what is going to happen before it does; and they know what their teammate is going to do before he does it!
Individual awards are also given, such as "Top Hand". This coveted award honors the handiest, the best, the-person-you-want-helping-you-at-the-ranch. Connolly Saddlery designed and built the saddle that will be given to the Top Hand at the 2021 NILE Ranch Rodeo. The Ranch Association saddle, ideal for top hands, is made to be used in every kind of condition. Its big swells, deep seat, high cantle, roping horn, hobble rings, saddle strings, wide rear cinch all benefit the rider doing multiple tasks in various situations. Situations that can’t be anticipated ahead of time! Cowboys react and get the job done!
The Ranch Rodeo at the NILE is a Finals, meaning ranch rodeos from around the region sanction with the NILE and send their winning teams to compete. It's the best of the best vying for awards and cash.
Fans and spectators get a glimpse into the techniques and skills used by these top ranch hands. Still locked in my memory is one year watching Clint Potts artfully throw an overhand loop to catch a yearling heifer that thought she was getting away! It was poetry in motion, one fluid move, seemingly without effort. Clint seen her move and reacted. Reflex and pure instinct kicked in...resulting in a showcase of unlimited talent.
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