Helmville Rodeo, MT – Bull-riders, Bucking Broncos and Cute Kids

Helmville Montana

We select a campsite in the pasture.

Helmville Montana horseback riding

Families exercisied their horses all around us.

Helmville Montana horseback riding

9-year-old Szeplyn was on her horse all afternoon.

Helmville Montana horseback riding

She stopped by for a visit.

Helmville Montana Labor Day Rodeo

Szeplyn shows us how her horse can smile.

Helmville Montana Labor Day Rodeo

The steer dashes across the field with the ropers in pursuit.

Roping at the Helmville Rodeo

Ropes fly as the "header" tries to snag the horns.

Roping at the Helmville Rodeo

Success - the steer's horns are caught.

Roping at the Helmville Rodeo

Tied head and foot, the steer rolls his eyes.

Roping at the Helmville Rodeo

Header and Heeler pause for a split second then release the steer.

Roping at the Helmville Rodeo

Catching a steer this way is no easy task.

The round-robin ropers wait their turn and laugh at the

antics of a buddy in the ring.

The steer are herded from the landing pen back to the

starting pen for another round.

Cattle at the Helmville Rodeo

Standing room only in the starting pen.

Family fun

No kid is too young for a rodeo.

Montana flag

Montana !!

bucking bronco riding

The bucking broncos do their best to

fling their riders into the air.

bareback riding Helmville Rodeo

Hang on!!

Bareback riding bronco riding Helmville Rodeo

This is not for the faint hearted.

Bareback riding bronco riding Helmville Rodeo

This horse came out kicking.

Bareback riding bronco riding Helmville Montana Rodeo Bareback riding bronco riding Helmville Montana Rodeo Bareback riding bronco riding Helmville Montana Rodeo Bareback riding bronco riding Helmville Montana Rodeo

Mark does Annie Oakley.

Helmville, Montana Rodeo (1)

Labor Day Weekend, 2009 - Our Stevensville, Montana friends, Bob

and Donna Lea, wanted us to get a taste of the real western cowboy

experience, so they took us to the Helmville Rodeo.  This is an annual

three-day event over Labor Day weekend that attracts rodeo stars and

ranch hands from all over the west.  Spectators and entrants alike find a

spot in the pasture to park their campers and horse trailers, and

everyone sets up for a fun-filled weekend.

We soon found

ourselves surrounded

by kids and their

parents exercising

their horses.  The

thick grasses and

expansive lands that

spread out against

the rolling brown

Montana hills seemed

perfect for taking your

horse out for a spin.

One little girl in

particular caught our

eye.  Nine-year-old

Szeplyn had a

magical way with her

horse.  She pranced past us repeatedly,

hair flying in the wind, as free and happy

as any girl her age could be.  At other

times she would wander by in a more

contemplative mood, scanning the

distant horizon.  She seemed to drift by

us on silent feet, at one with her horse,

the breeze and her world.

She stopped by our campsite to pay us a

visit and introduced herself.  She was

going to be in the barrel race the next

day.  There was a special category for

kids 10-and-under from the local area.

She was excited and we watched her

practicing with her dad.

During our visit she showed us how she

could make her horse smile.  Funny thing, he didn't seem to mind much as she pulled his lips into a

big toothy grin.  There was a real affection in this relationship that went both ways.

Next morning, down at the rodeo fairgrounds, the round-robin team

roping event was already underway when we got there.  In this event

a steer would be released to run across the field.  Two ropers would

the follow in hot pursuit.

One roper, the "header," would attempt to rope the steer's

horns.  Only one in five ropers managed to snare those horns.

Most steer got across the field in record time, untouched.

If the steer's horns were caught, the other roper, the "heeler," would

attempt to rope the steer's feet.  The was very tricky, as the feet are

running darned quickly and the rope has to slip under them mid-stride.

Of the steer whose heads were caught only a few got their feet caught


Once the steer was strung out between the two ropers, a

huge cheer would go up.  Then, as fast as you could click

the shutter on your camera, the steer would be released.

Of the forty or so round-robin ropers waiting their turn, every header in the

bunch would pair up with every heeler, giving every possible pairing of

ropers a chance.

There was a

large herd of

cattle that


and once they

each had run across the field in a

scrambling effort to evade getting

caught, they would all be herded back

to the starting line so they could run

another time.

The holding pen of steer waiting to

run across the field was very tight.

We learned later that these cattle are

rented to rodeos for performance purposes, so

they have a pretty good handle on what's

ahead of them.  I'm sure some of all that

mooing in the pen was a lively discussion about

how to outwit the ropers.  There might have

even been a bit of story telling among them about their

escapades in the rodeo.

The rodeo was a family event, and we saw kids of all ages

enjoying the fun.  No youngster was too small to be a part.

After the round-robin event was over, the professional show

started, kicked off by a circling of the Montana flag, then the

US flag, and finally everyone stood for the national anthem.

The bucking broncos were a real eye opener.  These horses get

their privates cinched up in a way that makes men cringe.  The

gate is flung open and the horse leaps into the air while the

cowboy hangs on for dear life.

Some horses really let their riders have it.  But

some riders manage to stay on for a miraculously

long time too.

One horse came out clawing the air.  His rider

somehow stayed on his back, even though the

horse reared a second time before giving him a rip-

roaring ride.

The facial expressions of the riders were priceless.

The event is timed in seconds, and rarely lasted

more than a few, but time must have been standing

still for those dare-devil men as they got

flung about like rag dolls.

The rodeo was a place where testosterone

was in very good supply.  Getting a burger,

we stood behind a fellow whose thoughts

about gun ownership were proudly

emblazoned on the back of his shirt.

There was a raffle for a gun Mark thought

was especially cool, and he did his best

Annie Oakley after he bought a ticket.  I

don't know what his plans were for the gun

if he'd won it, but his ticket didn't turn out to

be a winner in the end.

Neither of us has

spent much time

around horses or

farm animals, so we

loved every minute of

this action packed

weekend.  In the

evening we retreated

to our campsite,

watching the kids

trotting around on their horses.  We fell asleep to the sounds of horses

whinnying and snorting all around us as they stood outside tied to their

trailers.  Next morning we were up bright and early to catch more of the

Helmville Rodeo.