Eagle celebrates cowboy culture with horse expo
July 24, 2009
EAGLE – There’s an old saying that ponders, “Where did all the cowboys go?”
Well, they haven’t vanished from America, according to Pete Relyea, an organizer for the upcoming Rocky Mountain Horse Expo in Eagle.
“You just can’t see them from the road,” he said.
Come this weekend, cowboys will congregate in Eagle to give folks a glimpse of the ranching life.
The Rocky Mountain Horse Expo will celebrate all things equine Friday through Sunday at the Eagle County Fairgrounds.
Organized by the Denver-based Colorado Horse Council, the event features a rodeo, trade show, dummy roping for tikes, and presentations on horse-related topics.
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To see cowboys square off, check out the rodeo on Saturday night.
“Cowboys from America’s best cattle ranches come and show off their skills,” said Elizabeth Testa, assistant coordinator for the expo.
From clinging to bucking broncos to coaxing steers away from the herd, the cowboys engage in bouts of athleticism.
They even compete in wild cow milking. That’s when cowboys capture a cow who has been separated from her calf, and collect enough milk so a judge can pour it from a bottle onto the ground.
“It’s very exciting,” Testa said. “The cows aren’t necessarily cooperative.”
When it comes to living the cowboy life, it’s best to start children young. That’s the idea behind the “extreme junior dummy roping” event at the expo.
Often decked out in cowboy getups, kids practice roping a fake steer or calf. Winners get prizes like belt buckles.
“It’s a great way to get the kids started,” said Relyea, roping organizer and founder of the Colorado-based Cowboys for Kids. “You can give kids a rope, and they’ll play with it for hours and hours trying figure it out.”
Once, a little girl beat her older sister at roping, Relyea recalled. She turned to her older sister, who was crying, and quipped, “That’s the agony of defeat.”
Two events are new this year. With team roping, two cowboys on horseback rope a steer, with one cowboy circling the head and the other nabbing the feet.
The other new event is team sortings, where cowboys must separate numbered calves from a herd in sequence. That’s a real skill cowboys use on the ranch when they must separate a sick animal from the herd, Relyea said.
Along with the various horse events, experts will be on hand to deliver presentations.
Audra Dobbs, Miss Rodeo Colorado, will deliver a talk on her journey from “Cowgirl to Queen.” Also, she looks forward to speaking with audiences about horse ownership.
“It’s been such a blessing in my life, and it’s such a positive thing,” she said.
Like many other businesses struck by the recession, the horse industry is going through hard times right now, Relya said. The horse expo underscores the fact that the animals still have a place in modern society.
“Horses are still important in today’s world,” he said. “There are a lot of people who really do care about them.”
Timed with the Eagle Fair and Rodeo this year, the expo is designed to acquaint visitors with the horse industry.
“It’s a great way to promote the horse industry to the general public who may not know much about horses or have much exposure to them,” Testa said.