April 17, 2011

Red Bluff Round-Up

Headed up to Red Bluff this weekend for the 90th Annual Red Bluff Round-Up Rodeo at the Tehama County Farigrounds. Thanks to Matt Cohen's relationship with the Round-Up backed up by the incredible rodeo images he creates (example here) he was able to get me on the credential list to shoot. And WHAT a great time. Here's my round-up of the Round-Up!

Though I shot rodeo before at the Cow Palace for the Grand National Rodeo, this was a whole new experience. Thanks to the kind photographer wranglers I was able to access everywhere except the field itself. And considering there's thousand lbs plus bulls out there, I was quite happy behind a fence or elevated platform. Even that got a little close for comfort.

And here's where I stopped shooting and backed away from the fence.

The coolest area was behind the chutes.

Though it's a little crowded and tough to get a nice shot of the animal coming out of the chute, it's the absolute best place to get the cowboys hanging out and warming up.

It's interesting because these kind of feature photos makes rodeo look like this rustic old west sport, and I'd argue to say it still certainly has such fantastical elements.

But being back there makes you realize these guys aren't just crazy cowboys who ride bucking broncos and bulls for fun, but elite level athletes. They warm up, practice, and underneath their chaps wear under armor and powerbands, and show up drinking red bull.... not exactly 19th century.

And I think they could singlehandedly (or single armed-ly) keep the medical tape industry in business.

There is such camaraderie. The riders who show up by plane and pull in a couple hundred thousand per year are back there mingling with the riders who hitched a ride from another rodeo to compete in this one. And the people surrounding the chute, securing the rider, pulling the flank, and getting everything set before the gate opens, are the other riders. They don't travel with a posse because as you know from Willie Nelson, cowboys are "always alone" ;-)

Before I jump into more bareback, saddle bronc and bull riding, let me share some of the other events. There was steer wrestling. Basically a young bull gets a ropes length head start, starts running, a big cowboy follows on a horse running flat out, then jumps off the horse onto the steer and wrestles it to the ground.

But, be happy to know, once the steer is down, both cowboy and steer pop up. Cowboy celebrates his time (when applicable) and steer goes trotting off, uninjured, with a happy little "what you lookin at look?"

Another timed event is tie down roping. The steer again gets a head start, cowboy lassos the calf by the horns, and with slack in the rope, jumps off the horse, runs to the steer, flips him on his back, and ties three legs together. The animal has to stay down for six seconds, then immediately, two rodeo volunteer cowboys run out to release the ropes, and the steer walks away.

There's also team roping, very similar to tie down but instead of hopping off the horse to tie the steer's legs, a second cowboy uses his lasso to rope the back of the legs.

Then there's an event for the ladies, barrel racing. The rider has to direct her horse around three barrels then speed back. The horse has to be incredibly fit and the riders have an uncanny ability to guide the horse to make the sharpest turns and the fastest gallop for the home stretch.

There's certainly other entertainment at the Round-Up, both the rodeo clown and the announcer provide banter throughout. But the Round-Up also hosted the Budweiser Clydesdales, an American tradition.

And the One Armed Bandit - who's live show includes bison!!

Here's of my sister when the bison was rolling around.

Though to be fair... this is what a bison looks like when rolling around. Haha. Ridiculous.

And now back to more of what you've been waiting for. I'm going to share a handful of photos of the riding events. I'd like to first point out a common misconception, the flank straps tied around the animal's midsection is not holding up any of animals uh....reproductive parts, if you know what I mean, nor does it hurt the animal, it's more of an annoyance which encourages the animal to kick higher when bucking. Bulls and horses are both bred by stock contractors as those who are genetically inclined to buck.

It's AMAZING that they can be in this position, where you could basically count me out.

Somehow hold on, get themselves upright, and keep riding! This is from the same ride!!

Some have the option to re-ride if their animal didn't buck properly. And then some choose to join the Wild Ride, dressed in costume, riding again. Completely ridiculous and thoroughly entertaining!

Also, let's give a HUGE shout out to the bull-fighters, formerly known as rodeo clowns, but let's face it, that title was not an accurate description of the life-threatening and simultaneously life-saving acts. Red Bluff had two of the finest in Eric Layton and Joe Baumgartner!

Even with their great efforts, I gathered some photos of the horse and bull riding events to show you some positions I would never like to be in.

Now, what could be more fun that photographing a rodeo? Including your whole family on the trip to celebrate my grandma's birthday!! Though you never share a woman's age, I'll tell ya she's an octogenarian (not an octomom, though I guess technically she did have a combined eight kids when she married my grandpa) and you'd never guess it from her spunky attitude and hop-skip in her step! Happy Birthday Grandma!!

And lastly, I showed up to this rodeo in my old cowboy hat because Matt warned me you had to have one to be near the chutes. As Zach so cleverly commented on my facebook "fastest shutter in the west!"

Though not as bad as Matt's non-cowboy hat... I won't repeat what his new cowboy buddy said of it. But I'm sure he'd be happy to tell ya.

But then my family surprised me with a red hat! So stylin!!

To match the one I loved when I was a little girl... with more style and more attitude than I have now.

YeeHaw!! Thanks for reading!! Full set up at: http://photos.kelleylcox.com/redbluffroundup2011


  1. Kelley, fantastic photo's as usual. Great narrative, you can almost feel their pain. You capture a level of intensity I've never seen at a Rodeo because of the speed of the action. Ever consider publishing your work other than on your blog?

  2. Why do some cowboys tie strings around their boots? For good luck?

  3. Thanks Jim! And yes, I've done/am working on some yearly books, and am definitely considering photo books as a creative avenue in the future =)

    Anonymous, good question, I don't know actually! You should ask Matt Cohen, if he doesn't know, he is shooting the Clovis rodeo this weekend, maybe he can ask one of the guys!

  4. Usually its just the bareback riders that tie a small piece of latigo leather around their boots to keep them from coming off when spurring.

  5. Wow, I can't believe a boot could actually come off that easily! Hah, now that would make a crazy photo!