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The San Miguel Rodeo rides again

 The San Miguel Basin Rodeo returned to Norwood for the 117th year July 29 and 30
Peter B Lundeen Photography
The San Miguel Basin Rodeo returned to Norwood for the 117th year July 29 and 30

Building on a long tradition of horse handling and ranching, the San Miguel Rodeo came through Norwood recently for its 117th year.

While crowds traveled from across the county, rodeo competitors and workers came from all over the west.

Down beside the grandstands at the San Miguel Basin Rodeo, competitors in Saturday evening’s barrel race are awaiting their turn to sprint around the ring.

In a test of horse handling and athletic power, the steed and rider race in a cloverleaf pattern around four barrels set up in the arena.

Coming out of her turn in the ring, Harley Zehnder, a barrel racer from Norwood, is unphased by what she says was a lackluster result.

“It wasn’t my best year, but sometimes that happens. It’s my favorite event of the year, everyone shows up and has a great time. They love watching the rodeo and it’s fun getting to see your family and friends. It’s a super fun event,” said Zehnder.

Another competitor, Taylor Hildreth, shares the secret to a good barrel race.

“I train barrel horses for a living and I’m still trying to figure that out. I think the biggest thing is having one that has a lot of try and heart and wants to be a team player,” said Hildreth.

Harley Zehnder agrees that much of the magic comes from the spirit of the horse. She’s riding a speckled gray mare.

“My horse’s name is Penny, and she’s super gritty and tough and she loves to work,” said Zehnder.

Back in the grandstand, below a huge western sunset above the Norwood mesa, the final event of the weekend kicks off.

One of rodeo’s iconic competitions, it's bull-riding. The animals, weighing it a ton apiece, rip out of the gates as cowboys hold on for life. The event is nail-biting, eight seconds of danger and suspense.

In the ring right beside the bull and the cowboy, rodeo workers are face to face with the action.

Once the cowboy loses their grip and falls from the animal, their job is to corral the bull and separate the kicking beast from the fallen rider.

After the event, the cowboy protection team Edward Huffman and Devin Cisneros say that an empty mind is key to working face-to-face with such danger.

“Breathing helps big time. And adrenaline! Adrenaline is huge. It’s just such an adrenaline rush. To keep your cool while it’s happening and you’re in a situation is to pretty much turn your brain off. Don’t let it tell you you can’t,” said Cisneros.

“Yeah, you just react,” said Huffman.

This story from KOTO was shared with Aspen Public Radio via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico, including Aspen Public Radio.

Copyright 2022 Aspen Public Radio . To see more, visit Aspen Public Radio.

Gavin McGough