Mountain High Broncs to cowboys: eat dirt

photo/Mary Hyde Nightmoves, Bonnie Rasmussen's unridden, A-List, Ranch Rodeo Bronc, puts the moves on another good cowboy.

It’s rodeo time and the 12th Annual Mountain High Broncs and Bulls event is coming to Enterprise Fairgrounds this Saturday, June 20, starting at 2:30 p.m. Top cowboys are coming to ride those broncs — guys like 2013 World Champion Mike McBeth of Emmett, Idaho, and Miles Binger, National Rookie of the Year for 2014. But don’t count our local boys out. Cade Steen of Joseph and Lane Bailey of Pendleton will be riding, too.

These guys are good, but are they good enough to ride the stock that contractors are bringing to the event?

We shall see.

There are five contractors bringing their top stock and so far as ranch bronc riding goes — the good money is on Nightmoves, an 8-year-old, 1,300-pound, 16-hand gelding out of the High Desert Rough Stock breeding program.

Oh yeah, that’s what we’re talking about.

Bonnie Eckley Rasmussen is bringing the big gelding (and others) from Burns for his third solid year of “no-rides” on the ranch rodeo circuit.

“You can expect to see quite a bit of air with him,” she said. “He likes to get off the ground. He’s usually lacking a rider by the time he gets to the ‘airs above the ground.’”

He’s a sweet horse when he’s not on the job, Rasmussen said. “One of the first to come follow you around if you’ve got a grain bucket.”

But once he’s in the chute and busting out the gate, there’s no fooling around.

“Horses like Nightmoves are bred to do this,” Rasmussen said. “He’s definitely an athlete and empowered with the bucking horse spirit. It’s pretty humbling when you see that. These horses are born to do this and you can see it in them from the day they hit the ground.”

Greenhorns often think that the contractors or rodeo groundsmen “do something” to make those horses buck — but nothing could be further from the truth. These horses are bred to buck like Thoroughbreds are bred to run. Rasmussen, and other contractors, can rattle off the bucking pedigree for you if you need proof that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Nightmoves, for instance, is by Nightschool, a National Finals Rodeo performer, and out of Moonstone, a bucking mare who went on to produce a number of foals bucking on the professional rodeo circuit.

“He’s definitely an A-list horse,” Rasmussen said.

It’ll take an A-list ranch riding cowboy to ride Nightmoves in ranch rodeo. He’s been ridden in bareback bronc competitions by pro-rodeo riders and, since the horse and the cowboy both get scored, he’s helped them to get some really nice scores.

But ranch rodeo is different.

“Ranch rodeo is a lot of fun,” Rasmussen said. “There is a big difference between ranch riding and traditional saddle bronc riding. The horses are going to have a lot more blow-up, rank trip than a traditional buck/kick saddle bronc rider’s. It’s more a ‘colt with a cold back’ experience in ranch rodeo.”

Working cowboys like Steen and Bailey have had lots of experience with the ranch rodeo style in their everyday work, and they’ve had some good motivation to learn how to stick on. “You sure don’t want to get bucked off in the desert and have to walk all the way back home,” Rasmussen said.

Get some glue in your pants, boys, because the Wallowa County event is offering — not only the highest paying purse on the Western States Ranch Rodeo Association circuit — but the biggest belt buckle you ever saw. This year, the top Ranch Bronc Rider will drive out of Wallowa County in a classic, bright red, 1980 T-top Corvette from Main Street Motors of Enterprise.

Think that will go with your cowboy hat?

Naturally, there’s still be a big Montana Silver buckle and wads of cash to go with that car.

Expect to see the bulls bring the brawn, with stock from Asotin’s own Bar X Livestock and Mile High Bucking Bulls from Donnelly, Idaho. Other events include Mutton Busting, Bull Riding, the ever-popular Wild Horse Race, the Hard Way to earn $100 in rodeo and the Ring of Fire.

The Bullfighter is “Disciple of Danger” Randall Eschler of Joseph and the Barrel man is Joey “Hashbrown” Hackett of Texarkana. Lee Daggett will be your announcer.

Tickets are available at The Sports Corral in Joseph and at the gate.

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