Early on Saturday mornings, while the rest of Davis is sleeping, members of the Davis Rodeo Club can be found at Horsequarters in West Davis practicing different styles of riding that can be classified as “rodeo.”
“The main objective is to get people who have never had any experience on a horse and tell them what rodeo is,” said Amanda Kaschube, junior animal genetics major and president of the Rodeo Club. “A lot of the riders had never been on a horse before this year.”
Davis Rodeo Club began 30 years ago, but eventually was disbanded due to insufficient funding. In 2009 the club was resurrected and now holds riding clinics every other week, with focuses on rodeo events such as reining, barrel racing, pole bending, saddle bronc, bareback riding, roping and even bull riding. They also hold monthly meetings and social events.
The only requirement for potential members is an interest in rodeo. The dues for becoming an official member are $10 per quarter and active members must attend at least three events per quarter.
Members can ride horses provided by club officers at Horsequarters, where most clinics are held, free of charge.
So what is it that draws these riders — some of whom have never even been on a horse — to get involved with rodeo? Kimberly Ruble, first-year animal science major, said it’s incredibly relaxing, contrary to popular belief.
“[Rodeo Club] is relaxing. It is something fun to do,” Ruble said.
“It’s not the stereotypical rough cowboy on the horse beating them,” Kaschube added. “It’s really relaxing while you’re there doing it.”
On Nov. 5, the Rodeo Club practiced reining, a style of riding in which there is a set pattern for the rider to follow on his or her horse at a quick pace.
“[Reining is] a really technical style of riding. Basic — but really technical,” Kaschube said.
This riding clinic was divided into three groups: beginning, intermediate and advanced. The beginning group of riders focused on learning the moves required of them and their horses in the pattern, while the intermediate and advanced groups of riders focused on perfecting their form and increasing their speed.
In the intermediate group, Kaschube first demonstrated the pattern herself. After the members watched her perform the routine, each then took turns on the horse. First, they would perform the routine the best that they could remember, and then they would receive feedback from Kaschube before repeating it to see how they could improve.
Despite this training, however, the Rodeo Club is actually not given permission by the university to compete as a team, due to perceptions of the dangerous nature of rodeo. Kaschube said, however, that rodeo has changed a lot from its former image.
“People think [rodeo is] this rough and tough thing, but nowadays it is actually pretty gentle,” Kaschube said .
Riders who do wish to compete, such as many of the Rodeo Club instructors, enter competitions as individuals and often attend these competitions together. Whether or not they intend to compete, however, Kaschube said that her goal is to help the members to continue improving their riding skills and expanding their skill set.
The Rodeo Club currently has 50 registered members, and about 15 to 25 participants for each of the riding clinics. Saturday’s reining clinic had 17, the “perfect” amount according to Kaschube, because that way there is a good horse-to-rider ratio.
“They have so many different horses. There’s a draft horse here. I’d never ridden one before I got here. They’re so cool and so tall,” said junior animal science major Journey Fury.
Some of the members, including Fury and Ruble, had to sell their horses before coming to college, so Rodeo Club gives them a means by which to continue riding, training and just being around horses. Besides this benefit for former horse owners, Fury made it clear that it is a great experience for everyone interested in riding.
“Every horse is a different challenge that I like to try to solve,” Fury said. “You feel like you accomplish something so big when you figure them out.”
For dates of upcoming clinics and to learn how to join, visit davisrodeo.com.
CHRISTINA NOVAKOV-RITCHEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.