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Choteau Ranch Rodeo | Choteau, Montana

Competition or Sporting Event

Chalk branding – Paul Raczka

Working cowboys [and women] compete in events that they face everyday on the ranch.

If the professional rodeos leave you cold, you might want to see working cowboys in action. For pure fun and family entertainment, you can’t beat it! These are all working cowboys from local ranches in Montana, so you never know what’s going to happen. [During the warm-up section one year one of the judges got bucked off his saddle horse.]

This year’s date is Saturday, the 1st of September 2018, at the Choteau Rodeo grounds.

So what’s a Ranch Rodeo? Well, it starts off with 4 or 5 man teams competing in events that a part of everyday ranching experiences. Now when I say “man teams”, that includes women and kids as young as thirteen. And these folks will amaze you. They’re the real deal! There are five ranching events, and a kid’s boot race. Last year there were 17 teams entered.

The first event is Team Doctoring. They start at a line at the opposite side of the arena, have to ride to another line at the opposite side, send two men in to rope a cow out of a herd being held there. The cows are numbered and the team is told when they start which one they need to catch. The other team riders have to keep the other cows from crossing the line, or be disqualified. The cow is brought across the line, Heeled [roped on hide feet] laid flat, and marked with chalk between the eyes. They can throw as many loops as they like, but only have three minutes to complete the doctoring.

The next is Team Branding. A roper rides into a herd of calves and finds the one with the number the team was given, ropes it and brings it out of the marked area. Again, if any other calves get past the line, they get no score. When the calf is dragged out the two other team members throw it, and a fourth member runs up and brands it with a chalk marker. The calf also has to be branded on a specific spot [left shoulder, right flank, etc.], where they were told at the start.

The Kid Boot Race is usually next. They remove their boots, which are placed toward the center of the arena [different distances for different aged kids]. When the buzzer sounds they have to run out there, find their boots, put them on and race back to the finish line.

Steer Mugging is next. A number for the cow is called out and a rider must ride to the herd, cut out the steer, run him back across the line, rope him and then the muggers must throw the animal and tie three legs. Any other animals crossing the line results in disqualification, and if the selected animal crosses back across the line the team’s also disqualified.

Trailer Loading, the next event, is an important skill for loading up a sick animal on the open range and bringing him in for doctoring. Like before the steer’s number is called out, a rider picks him out and runs him across the line, ropes him and loads him into the trailer. Two horses must also be loaded in the trailer. All the same reasons [cow crossing the line, etc.] also apply in this event.

The final event is Wild Cow Milking, and this is where things can get real western. The team has to declare if it is mugging [see above] or head and heeling the cow before they start. The cow has to be standing when milked. The milk bottle has to be handed to the judge [a short run away] and have enough milk to pour out. Now these aren’t milk cows but sure enough cows from the range. So as I’ve said, things can get real western real quick.

All of this sounds pretty straight forward, but remember there is a 3-minute time limit, and these aren’t professionals. Can’t say when I’ve had more fun at a rodeo. It’s real hometown and real western. What other rodeo have you been to where someone in the crowd yells out to the announcer for the last team’s time – and gets an answer? They’ll have a concession stand run by the Cattle Women’s Association, or bring your own cooler. The Ranch Rodeo is a non-profit organization run by unpaid, dedicated local folks.

If you want to see real cowboys doing what they really do, don’t miss this one.