Everyone knows the University of Arizona has basketball teams and many people have heard of the UA Quidditch team, but most people don’t know that the UA has a rodeo team.
Members of the rodeo team held flags on horseback at the beginning of the Tucson Rodeo Parade on Thursday, Feb. 20. The parade is known as the “largest Non-Motorized Parade in the U.S.,” according to the Tucson Rodeo Parade website.
As La Fiesta de los Vaqueros Tucson Rodeo comes to a close, rodeo culture is stepping out of the limelight until this time next year. But not the UA’s intercollegiate rodeo team.
For Sarah Nelson, a UA senior studying animal sciences with an equine emphasis, the responsibilities and work involved with participating in rodeo competitions last all year long.
“To be in rodeo competitions, you have to take care of your own horse, gear and cover transportation to the events,” Nelson said. “You have to feed your horse every morning and night and ride your horse every day to keep them in shape.”
Nelson has been president of the rodeo team for the past two years and has been riding horses for her entire life.
“We love being a part of the parade,” Nelson said. “It’s a tradition that we’re the color guard, and we are proud to keep going.”
According to Nelson, the rodeo team is one of the oldest intercollegiate rodeo teams in the country. The competitions include events like bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, team roping, bull riding and tie down roping.
“My favorite thing about riding a horse is that it’s second nature to me,” Nelson said. “It’s relaxing and clears my mind.”
The rodeo team’s secretary, April Pahi, has similar sentiments. She has been involved in rodeo since she was about 6 years old and is a UA junior studying veterinary science. She said that her favorite thing about riding is that when you’re in the sport, you gain a strong connection with your horse.
“What’s really amazing is the community that gets together,” Pahi said. “Everyone should come watch rodeo it’s an electrifying experience.”
According to Pahi and Nelson, whether you’ve never been to a rodeo, or you’re an avid fan, you can watch the team compete on Saturday, March 14, at the Pima County Fairgrounds. Slack, an event in which extra contestants participate, is at 9:00 a.m. and the rodeo performance is at 2:00 p.m.
“I would recommend that people come and see the performance,” Pahi said. “That’s the time when everyone is watching from the stands, and it usually lasts about an hour.”
Tanner Lyman, a UA senior studying agriculture technology and management, has been involved with rodeo for his whole life.
“You can always teach your horse something new,” Lyman said. “It’s cool to see them transform from when they start to when you finish training them. I also love all of the people that you meet.”
The UA Rodeo Team competes year-round, participating in four fall events and six in the spring. A few of their members compete in the Grand Canyon region.
“Being in the rodeo is very humbling,” Nelson said. “It is such a family atmosphere, and even though it’s a competition, everyone is so supportive of each other.”
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