When we pulled up to our first rodeo, rusted bumper pull and our truck with nearly 250K miles on it, to say I was insecure was an understatement. I saw lines of beautiful LQ trailers (living quarters horse trailers), brand new trucks and groups of people who looked like they’d known each other for ages gathering in between them.
Sadly, I projected that onto Abby and she could feel my insecurity and nervousness. I’m a “socially awkward” person, in the best way in my opinion, so meeting people and starting conversation isn’t difficult for me, but here…at our first rodeo…I felt socially paralyzed.
I found a place to park, at the end, far away from anyone. I thought, “the further I am away, the less they’ll be able to hear the intense creaking of my ramp as I let it down to unload the horses.” If I was farther away, I was less likely to be judged by the way we tie our horses up.
HOW RIDICULOUS IS THIS??? I’ve been around horses all my life. Most importantly, how completely idiotic was it of me to think anyone was paying attention to how I tied up or handled our horses, let alone even notice the rig I was pulling up in.
So…for my first tip:
1. Stop thinking anyone is judging you.
I’m not trying to sound harsh, but honestly, everyone is concerned with their rig, their horses, their kids. No one is sitting there judging you for your rig, horses or kids. The narrative I created in my head was so far from true. How silly of me to think it was about me. How wrong to create that narrative on behalf of others. No one is judging you. Well, unless you’re doing donuts in your trailer ;).
2. Don’t seclude yourself; it only brings more seclusion.
You’re not going to make friends by secluding yourself. I know, it’s a no brainer, but actually pay attention to your behavior. It’s much more comfortable to sit in the back of the trailer and play Uno (true story) or chat with someone you know really well. I’ve watched women who complain about rodeo being cliquey but they sit together, by themselves and complain and it’s going to only breed more cliques. Take a few minutes to go out of your comfort zone, smile and say hi to people. Offer to help with the gate, the timer or the pattern. They’ll teach you so don’t worry if you’re not experienced.
There is also most likely always going to be a “Sarah” at a rodeo. Sarah is an amazing rodeo mom at our local district that has been in it herself and has three girls participating. She is the welcoming committee, knows everyone and knows all the rules and events. Every rodeo has their version of a Sarah. It’s probably someone on the board who is in a social position of some sort. Find the Sarah. Learn from her.
If you don’t want to make friends, ignore everything I just said, but don’t complain. Love you.
3. Work with what you have.
I have spoken to more people who recall their bumper pull days as being the best ones. That old inexpensive horse they got from a neighbor who did it all for their kids. Rodeo is a progression. Sure, there are families who have been in rodeo for multiple generations, honestly, they deserve all the things, they’ve worked for that. You might be a first gen rodeo family. Own that. This is your beginning.
Don’t go out and get yourself in debt buying a huge trailer, a string of specialized horses and expensive lessons (unless you have cash to burn!). There are so many things you can do to keep it economical. Ask the local college rodeo team if any of them would be able to give lessons. Watch what your child gravitates to and support that, but give it some time. Learn the ropes, talk to people and don’t compare your beginning to their middle. If your rodeo is a multiple day event where you need to stay overnight, we use an app called Outdoorsy It’s a great site that allows you to rent an RV for the night, so you can still stay on the grounds, but not have to have a trailer with living quarters. For our very first event, I borrowed an RV from a friend!
I truly believe rodeo is one of the most amazing sports out there. In a world where kids don’t typically face a whole lot of adversity, rodeo provides natural obstacles that build problem solving skills, grit and character. Don’t worry about not having the experience, the best horse and all the things. Go into it with a positive mindset and you’ll make some of the best memories with your kids.