The horses were sweating in spite of the early morning chill that kept the cowgirls and boys bundled up as they took a turn around the indoor arena. A few of the riders sipped on coffee and gently nudged their animals in a circle — trotting them at first and then moving them into a smooth lope.
Slack began at 10 a.m. on Friday at the College of Southern Idaho’s Eldon Evans Expo Center, signaling the start of the annual CSI rodeo. The early morning round gave contestants a prod out of bed despite a few bruises garnered the night before at the Rocky Mountain Regional Rodeo, also held at CSI.
CSI Freshman Chuck Povey, 18, said her best event depends on the day. The goat-tying, barrel racing, roping cowgirl dug her spurs into rodeo when she was 10 years old and hasn’t looked back.
Povey said she went to bed at 1:30 a.m. after Thursday’s rodeo and woke up at 7 a.m. to feed her three horses.
Many of the rodeo’s contestants let their animals sleep under the stars in an arena outside of the Expo center; other schools like Weber State University are keeping their horses at the TwinFalls County Fairgrounds in Filer.
As for the traveling contestants — they are staying in hotels around Twin Falls and, in between the rodeos, the cowboys and girls are getting their game faces on. Povey said she practices her goat tying skills by tying her goat rope around her foot to get faster and more agile.
She picked up her turquoise and black boot covered with mud and manure and stuck it out.
“This is my goat tying foot,” she said, adding that she’s eaten a lot of dirt in her day while trying to jump off of her galloping horse in mid-stride to pin the goat down.
She gives a smile and walks off — her gait matching the rest of the rodeo athletes’ strides. The cowboy walk is a bit of a saunter — which may be due to the long hours sitting on horses, or perhaps the broken in boots they wear for at least a few hours a day.
Dennis Montgomery, Weber State’s rodeo coach, said his athletes spend around five hours a day with their animals. Fifteen of his students drove to Twin Falls from Ogden, Utah, hauling their horses behind them.
Rodeo, he said, is an expensive sport.
“They need trucks, trailers and tack. Some of those horses costs anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000,” he said. “Other athletes, you know, you say ‘here is your equipment,’ and it’s a uniform. But rodeo is about family support.”
As he looked toward the arena, Montgomery stood tall, with a large white mustache that extended well past his cheeks, twisted and smoothed with wax; a mustache movie stars hope to emulate in Westerns.
“They’re tough. These kids are bruised and in pain a lot. But they’re good kids and they are getting an education through rodeo,” he said. “They have good work ethic. They have to keep their horses and themselves in good shape.”