The life of a rodeo contestant: Late nights, long hauls and no guarantees
Traveling countless miles per year, working dawn to dusk, spending weeks away from family and loved ones, and risking your health each time you do your job without a guaranteed paycheck… Does this sound like an occupation you’d sign up for? This is the life of a cowboy or cowgirl who travels the country competing in the sport they love – rodeo.
If you don’t have the heart or passion, you might as well explore another career, because at the end of the day it might be all you have left. Rodeo is unlike any other traditional sporting event. In most cases, professional athletes who are signed to a team get a contract or guaranteed salary. Typically, professional athletes will travel as a team to and from their next event, and their franchise usually funds the team’s travel. In addition, most professional athletes who get injured often are protected by their contracts and/or have great benefits that help them during times of recovery.
In the sport of rodeo, most of that doesn’t exist! No guaranteed salary, no paid-for travel expenses, no guaranteed health benefits, and no reliable fallback plan when injured.
In the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, cowboys will look up the scheduled rodeos for the year, then try to plan their travel accordingly to get from one rodeo to the next. Circuit contestants are required to attend and participate in so many rodeos in order to even qualify to attend their local circuit finals rodeo. Oftentimes, to help save some money, fellow bull riders or bronc riders will try to catch rides or carpool from one state to the next. Barrel racers will often put out messages to others offering to haul horses if needed. It’s like family – everyone tries to help out when they can!
In order for them to participate in rodeos, contestants pay an entry fee. Even though they aren’t guaranteed a salary, they still have to pay to play. When contestants enter a rodeo and then for some reason cannot attend, they then lose that entry fee they paid. No refunds in this biz! The only ways for contestants to recoup their entry fees once they have been paid is (1) in the case of family emergencies or (2) if they have a doctor’s release should they get injured while rodeoing.
The good news is, the payouts are worthwhile for competitors who make it to their respective circuit finals rodeos, the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo, and the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. The purse at our rodeo alone, the RNCFR, is over $1 million in cash and prizes!
In Kissimmee, we appreciate the sport of rodeo, as it is deeply tied to our roots here in Osceola County. We respect the sport and the cowboys! We hope you’ll catch our rodeo April 5-8, 2018 at the Silver Spurs Arena. After all, these cowboys sure earned an audience!