Christy Smith’s family teases her about her rodeo skills when they tell about her mom falling off a horse when she was just a few weeks pregnant with Christy. Since then Christy has taken her fair share of tumbles, but has improved from each one.
The 18-year-old Christy Smith from Clark is one of 90 high school-age competitors taking part in this weekend’s Missouri High School Rodeo State Finals, also known as MHSR, at the Boone County Fairgrounds.
Her dad got her interested in rodeo when she was much younger, and at 11 she was competing in the break away roping competition. She hasn’t stopped since.
In break away roping competition, the rider is on the horse and when the nod is given a calf is let out and runs far enough to give it the advantage. The rider and the horse are then allowed to go after the calf. The rider must catch up to and rope the calf while on the horse. Her best time is two seconds flat.
Smith considers herself lucky to be able to compete, considering that without her contacts she is legally blind.
People often ask her how she is able to see the calf well enough to catch it. She’ll admit that she can’t see the details well but she can still see where it is.
Smith practices with her dad every day. During basketball season she goes out to rope after practice and any other spare minute she can find. Over the past winter, the Smiths participated in 11 Missouri High School rodeos and several Missouri Cowboy Rodeo Association rodeos. Some of their rodeo friends are helping teach Smith how to team rope.
Smith acknowledges that she has learned more than riding and rodeo skills from competing. She’s made many friends and contacts over the years. She has learned responsibility and people skills as well.
To many of the participants, rodeo is not just a sport or a weekend activity. It’s a way of life that teaches respect and discipline. Rodeos have always begun with a prayer and the national anthem. “You’ll hear a lot of ‘yes ma’m’s and ‘no ma’m’s,” said Bondi Wood, MHSR state secretary.
The sport also teaches discipline. As the contestants arrived Thursday morning they were each assigned a number that they will wear on their backs at all times. Even if contestants venture into town they must wear their number. The contestants must also care for their own animals. There are many hours of work put into feeding and working with the rodeo animals before each event, and often before even getting into the arena.
Smith spends time with her horse training him to rope with her. Once she arrives at the competition she walks her horse to get him comfortable with the surroundings. She then exercises the horse and gets him ready and stretched out before she worries about herself. Smith will also go and watch others compete to see how the calf breaks and which way it runs.
The rodeo season started with 120 participants last fall. Over the months there are competitions to determine who moves on to the state finals in June. This year there are 90 participants competing for a spot in the National Rodeo competition set for July. The top four in each event will be named to the national team.
The competition began Thursday and continues each evening until Saturday. On Sunday morning, there is an awards ceremony when the names of those going to the national competition will be revealed.
Two years ago Smith took part in the National Rodeo Finals and placed seventh overall in break away roping. She’s hoping to get another chance to go to national finals, but doesn’t want to know her point standings before she competes this weekend.
This is the first time that the State Rodeo Finals have been held in Columbia in the group’s 47 years. Because Columbia is centrally located, Wood hopes this will make it easier for the contestants, their families and other spectators to come.