On May 14, more than 50 high school students from across the state will compete in the Indiana High School Rodeo Association Finals competition before heading to the State Finals in June. The event will take place at the 4-H Exhibition Center in Boone County in Lebanon.
With 14 events, Association President Tim Rice says students have the chance to compete in barrel racing, steer wrestling, calf roping, bull riding, saddle bronc riding, and more.
“Most of these competitors have been participating for many years. They start when they’re 6 to 8 through youth programs across the state,” Rice said. “A lot of their parents have been involved and they are teaching their kids how to do it and others have coaches.”
Sheridan’s competitor, Evan Bourdon, is the association’s student president and has been competing since he was in sixth grade.
“I saw a rodeo and got hooked, so I learned rope riding and horseback riding. Most kids my age started when they were learning to walk, so I started late “Bourdon said. “I think it’s the adrenaline. You’re competing with other teenagers, but it’s really up to you and the animal. When you’re working with your horse and trying to When roping a calf and multiple people are involved, it’s like multiple different brains working together to make it happen.
The High School Rodeo Association has been in operation since 1973 and although Rice said riding on the back of a 1,500 pound bull might not be the “smartest thing people do”, the association uses subcontractors, providing age-appropriate horses and bulls. and less likely to injure students.
“I wouldn’t take them for a walk, but they don’t want to hurt the kids,” Rice said.
In fact, the animals have been trained to participate, and Bourdon said the combination of training keeps both animals and competitors safe.
“You look at some of the best and best cared for animals. They are right in weight and size and trained to do what we want them to do, so no animals are harmed,” Bourdon said.
Despite the measures taken to keep everyone safe, there is still an element of danger to the sport.
“I’ve had my fair share of injuries. I had a concussion when I was in eighth grade and had an eye injury at one point,” Bourdon said. “I played college football in high school (Bourdon is now a senior) and I would say after an hour of practice at the rodeo, I’m in more pain than playing football. You have to think that you are hanging from the side of a 1200 pound horse and trying to grab a 500-600 pound bull. There is a level of danger to this.
Even with the risks involved, it’s a sport that requires commitment and love for what they do.
“These kids spend their time riding at least two to five hours a week,” Rice said. They consider animals as part of their family. I think they learn a lot of responsibilities; you don’t see many of them carrying Game Boys or iPads. From the time they wake up in the morning until the time they go to bed, they train, compete and take care of these animals.
Bourdon agreed and added, “It’s just a whole different way of life. If you’re a cowboy, you’re living America’s roots. You won’t find a more polite teenager outside the rodeo because there is a code of respect, honor, with high morals and character.
As student president, Bourdon represents the student body and coordinates the social activities and fundraisers organized within the framework of the program.
“We have a scholarship fund, given to seniors to help them continue their education. The host city is responsible for organizing the rodeo, so I’ve been working with sponsors for this upcoming event,” Bourdon said. “Working with Legion Post 67, the Boone County Visitors Bureau and so many others has been truly amazing. Everyone is attracted to the support of our scholarships. Companies and organizations come to help wherever they can.
As for Bourdon, he plans to attend Pearl River Community College in Poplarville, Mississippi in the fall and continue in college-level rodeo.
“I plan to major in animal science and then graduate from veterinary school to become an animal radiologist,” Bourdon said. “After college you can take your rodeo career to a semi-professional or professional level with several different organizations and I look forward to it.”
For more information about the Indiana High School Rodeo Association, visit the website at inhsrodeo.com.
The pre-performance begins at 6:45 p.m. Saturday night and admission is $5 per person at Boone County 4-H Fairgrounds, 1300 E. 100 S., Lebanon.