INDIANTOWN – Rodeo fans from far and near flooded into Timer Powers Park Friday evening as the 74th annual Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) got underway. October starts a brand new rodeo season for cowboys and cowgirls. So, those participating were making "fresh starts," aimed for the 2022 National Finals in Las Vegas.
The program began with the PRCA honoring the soldiers killed during the Kabul Airport attack in Afghanistan on Aug. 26. Thirteen riderless horses, draped with American flags, were led around the arena as the military personnel's names, rank, and age were read. The audience clapped, cheered and cried. Some of those leading the horses wiped tears.
The crowd reverberated the atmosphere with patriotic shouts and whistles.
Steer wrestling, team roping and tie-down roping placed times on the scoreboard in preparation for Saturday night's finale. In these events, cowboys compete against a time clock as well as each other. A 10-second penalty is added to the cowboy's time for "breaking the barrier of the box."
The box is a three-sided fenced area with the fourth side opening into the arena. The barrier is a thin line stretched across that opening that automatically releases as the calf or steer reaches their head start point.
Pounding hooves plowed up the dirt as the barrel racers sped around three barrels in a cloverleaf pattern then charged to the finish line.
Enthusiastic fans cheered as bareback and saddle bronc riding started the event off. Horses plunging and lunging from the bucking chutes sent cowboys sailing into the air and sprawling into the dirt or clinging to the thrashing mount until the "pick-up-men" came to the rescue.
Fritz Brewer, longtime PRCA judge and Okeechobee resident explained the point system in bronc and bull riding. Two judges are judging both the rider and the mount on 25 points they can earn. The judges add their points for the contestant and the mount together to reach the ride total. Brewer said a "good ride" total was 80-85 points. He also said the actions of the cowboy reflect in his point total. Their feet and hands must be in the proper places of point penalties are incurred. For example, the "mark out rule" says the cowboy's feet should be forward, over the horse's shoulders on the first jump out of the chute. Brewer clarified that a horse refusing to exit the chute removed the mark-out rule.
The excitement continued throughout the last event, bull riding, where 1,200 to 2,000 pounds of whirling, churning and lurching fury challenged cowboys to remain astride for eight seconds.
The bucking stock animals also receives points and have career histories much like the cowboys that ride them. For example, First Instinct was Cullen Telfer's mount. The pair won the bull riding competition with a score of 81. First Instinct's career history shows he has bucked off 70% of his riders in two years and had only two qualifying rides. Telfer's was one of the two.
The Indiantown Chamber of Commerce has sponsored the rodeo since about 2010 according to Denise Lechner, president. The Indiantown rodeo joined the PRCA in 2011, and the results are posted on the PRCA website.