My first thought was, “No way. I’m a city girl. City girls don’t do that.”
Less than 24 hours later, I found myself in the middle of a rodeo arena, tying my first goat.
I’d never been to a rodeo. I’d never really been around farm animals. But, I was all in. Ready to give it a go. Besides, I had to start somewhere...
According to two goat tyers at this year’s Missouri State High School Rodeo which ends today at the Boone County Fairgrounds, I had a lot to learn.
Casey Chasteen of Rock Bridge High School and Kaley Cobb of Montgomery County R-II High School have competed in goat tying since elementary school.
In high school rodeo, the tyer rides a horse from the holding stall to the goat, which is on a 10-foot leash tied to a stake. The tyer jumps off, tackles and ties the goat. The goat must remain tied for six seconds to count.
Because the event results are based on time, and getting off properly and quickly is essential.
“Usually I put my hand on the
horse’s neck to slow him down,” Cobb said. “Then I’ll slide my right foot under me and off to the side. When it hits the ground, then I gradually get off.”
But, it’s more than that. The horses must be taught how to cooperate and allow the rider to dismount easily. Chasteen said she tends to scoot to one side of her saddle to let the horse know she wants to get off.
“You want the horse to pause in stride so you can get off safely. You have to train your horse to do this,” Chasteen said. “I tend to just move over in my saddle though.”
But I wouldn’t be jumping off a running horse anytime soon, I decided. I’m still a beginner.
So I skipped the horse part and went straight to the goat-tying.
Chasteen gave a quick summary of how the goat-tying process works, followed up with a slow motion demonstration. First, the goat tyer runs from the horse to the stake and straddles the leash.
“You want to go right there, because your legs can catch the rope so the goat can’t run too far away,” she said. “If you don’t, you could be running around in circles chasing it.”
She placed her right hand under the goat’s right hind leg and her left hand on its left front leg.
Then, she squatted down, picked up the animal and used her knees to lay it on its side. From there, she pulled the rope from her mouth and tied the animal’s two hind legs and right front leg together.
She explained that it’s best to put the right hind leg on bottom so the rope will stay for the required six seconds.
She made it look easy.
Now it was my turn.
I cautiously approached the goat as I walked along the thick, dirt floor of the arena.
I tried to follow the directions exactly. Begin at the stake. Straddle the rope. Grab the goat. Lay it down.
Just one problem. I didn’t want to hurt the goat. Who wants to have their legs tied together while lying on a dirt floor? And I felt that when I pushed my knees into its side, I’d hurt it even more.
I was soon reassured.
Bruce Glascock, Missouri’s representative for the national board of High School Rodeo, said few animals are hurt.
“I’ve worked with the rodeo for more than 20 years and I’ve only seen one goat have injuries,” he said. “It’s very rare.”
I was still hesitant to fully do as they said. But, I gave it a second go (rodeo parlance for “attempt”).
This time was better than the first. I went through the process like a real goat tyer and even picked up a little speed too. But when I threw my arms up, a signal to stop the time in a competition, the goat stood back up. There was no struggling. Not even a little. My attempt had failed. The goat wasn’t tied.
A 35-pound goat was beating me.
It was time for a bathroom break. Not for me, but the goat.
No big deal. It happens.
Now giggling, I begin my third go. I’m really trying on this one. I have to get it right, at least once.
And I did.
I grabbed the goat and tied its legs together as fast as I could. I grabbed the rope from my mouth and completed a tight knot.
The goat stayed down for six seconds.
I walked away with a smile.