Sunday, November 4, 2012

Life: 8 Seconds at a Time

Friday was a day just like any other... I got up and put my pants on, one leg at a time. I got into work and got right on doing the normal stuff I would be doing. Nothing new, nothing exciting. Until, I hear on the radio that today was the day that The Royal was having an admissions special for Friday only. It was like going to do some of my preliminary investigation on what I was interested in.

All this build up for today: the Ontario Toyota Dealers Rodeo. I didn't expect to go but I had all these big plans to get up at 7:30am to get on there early to watch the dairy goat milking and the Clydesdales at the Horse Palace. I figured that since the subway didn't start until just before 9am, I could hang tight and mosey on over in cowboy fashion.

I took the Bathurst streetcar down and as we are nearing the CNE Loop, a young girl sees two sandy-buff coloured cows being led on the roadway and she points and squeals "look!! PIGGY!!!" Yep, I was stunned speechless too. I didn't know what to say and although part of me wanted to giggle, I think I was in such shock that I didn't know what to do. But you know what? good on the parents for taking her here to get up close and personal with these animals: smells and all.

We had lunch at the Hitch Bar and Cafe in the Horse Palace and make our way to the rodeo at the Ricoh Colliseum. I've never been to a rodeo and last time I was in Calgary, I didn't go for the Stampede. Today's rodeo is co-hosted by CBC's own Heartland's Amber Marshall. I admit, I haven't watched this show before but she was a lot of fun and the theme was a East versus West rodeo: bareback broncos, pole bending, barrel racing, trick riding/vaulting, Canadian Cowgirls, saddle bronc and the best known of them all: bull riding.

At one end of the ring, there is a maze of metal gates and various animals and people. It reminded me of the bullpen of a baseball stadium. The players (the cowboys) of each team was sitting in their respective team areas and stretching and getting hyped up for their event. The animals were hanging out in small pens waiting before they were mounted and let out.

Some people think rodeos are barbaric and inhumane but I didn't see any animal get hurt or be mistreated. In fact, if anything, I saw more human beings being mistreated and injured by the animals themselves. The animals are not rilled up before getting to the bucking chute. They may be agitated but who wouldn't be if they were standing in confined spaces and being herded here or there (TTC riders must be familiar with this feeling)? I don't think it's a big deal. Compared to bull fighting in Spain, I would say that this is far more reasonable.

The first event is the bareback broncos. I've never watched a rodeo in person so I didn't know what to expect exactly. We have two cowboys who ride in the ring; their job is to get to the rider and then release the animals of the flank strap so that they can go back to their pens.

The introduction is done, all eyes focus; and the bucking chute gate swings open and BAM, the bronco is bucking viciously with the rider hanging on for their lives. The rules are: one hand on the animal and the other free hand anywhere but the animal. Watching it in person is much different than on television... the body of the rider is bring thrown around like a ragdoll and you really wonder who's brave crazy enough get on an animal who's moving like that and try to stick on there for 8 seconds.

Pole bending is a neat activity that I've seen the Superdogs do. The idea is the same, just with a modified set up for a larger animal. Barrel Racing has similar requirements for fast and tight turns as well as straightaways. The athletes aren't just the horses but the riders are in incredible shape to be able to stay on the horse and get them to move like that.

The Canadian Cowgirls have a show for the audience where their performance is kind of like synchronized swimming. If you've seen Cavalia, you'll know what I'm talking about. Here's a posted video of today's event:

And, I saved the best for last: bull riding. This is voted to be the most extreme sport on the planet. You've got guys skate boarding or BMX riding? These boys have got nothing on a cowboy who lowers himself onto a bucking bull. There are riders as young as 15 today. If that doesn't put hair on your chest, I"m not sure what else would.

To get a better appreciation for what this post is about, catch this video:

Hope you've had as much fun as I have... yeehaw and yippi-kayo!


  1. hats off to the amazing cowboys and girls! Don't forget the trick riders too!

    1. they really do live up to the stereotype of being a rough and tough bunch!