Native News Network Staff in Entertainment. Discussion »
LAS VEGAS It’s championship rodeo time as a field of all American Indian cowboys and cowgirls again chase the gold buckle dream at the 2013 Indian National Finals Rodeo (INFR), November 5-9, at South Point Arena in Las Vegas.
Billed as the largest and longest-running professional Indian rodeo organization in the world, INFR General Manager Donna Hoyt notes,
“We’ve become a premier event where cowboys can come and make some good money.”
And they all arrive optimistically prepared to do so. Like 8-time world champion Joe Beaver advises,
“If you don’t think you can win when you get to the rodeo, there’s no sense in going.”
This year --- the 38th annual gathering --- will bring together an estimated 500 contestants representing more than 50 tribes from the US and Canada.
“Most Indian kids grew up riding horses,”
says bareback rider Buck Lunak, PRCA cowboy and 2012 INFR champion.
“We’ve always been great horsemen and grew up with a cowboy way of life.”
Veteran competitor Donna Small, a World Champion as well as a 3-time Tour Champion (and owner of Boogie, 3-time Horse of the Year), has been in the game long enough to say “This ain’t my first rodeo,” and offers some pointers to new arrivals.
“Competitors who get invited to the INFR Finals are already recognized winners. You’ve succeeded by just being here and win, lose, or draw, it’s icing on the cake, a reward for all your hard work. Be grateful to your support team and let them share in your achievement. Be kind to your horse and your competitors. Kick the butterflies. Don’t think about your competitors because you can’t ride their horse and they can’t ride yours. And remember as you dress for your event that we all put our Wranglers on the same way --- relax, wear a big smile, and enjoy the ride!”
Another been-there, done-that veteran, Victor Begay, hasn’t become complacent over his years of competition in the saddle, but has come to recognize that each time he puts on a number, he narrows his focus and reminds himself,
“It’s only a horse and you’ll figure something out.”
Lunak says his secret to success is “getting good cattle and roping with the right partner.” World champion breakaway roper Wahlean ‘Bobbie’ Riggs says, “I do what I have to do and hope my horse does the rest,” while bull rider Cameron Bruised Head advises, “Don’t get too overwhelmed, just take ‘um one at a time.”
While rodeo builds camaraderie among the contestants who are trying to keep their wallets filled as they climb the points ladder, it builds closer ties in rodeo families.
“My wife, son, and I all compete,”
says INFR Commissioner Bo Vocu.
“It’s fun because we spend our whole summer together competing and there are few things in life in which the entire family can be involved.”
Despite the need for a competitive spirit, there is also a togetherness factor says former breakaway champion Yolanda Nez.
“When you enter the arena, you feel accepted. It’s like breathing in fresh air. The arena can be nerve racking, soothing, and exciting all at the same time, but those feelings only tell me the traveling, training, and preparation were worth it and the elements can now all come together in rhythm.”
Team roper Clint Harry (who partners with fellow PRCA Cowboy and INFR Tour Champion Casey Cummins) advises,
“If you’ve prepared right and are confident, you know you’re ready. So you use what you draw and rope smart. Believe in yourself and don’t hold back. You put in the work to qualify, now go and make it happen.”
Spectators can look forward to both afternoon and evening performances daily from November 5-8 with the Junior/Senior Championships and the Championship Round slated for November 9.
posted October 24, 2013 7:57 am edt