Saddle up!

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For the first time in my life, I went to a Rodeo. It was not any Rodeo it was the Pendleton Round-up! After 105 years the Pendleton round-up is still very popular with a crowd of 16 000 on the last day. The participation and involvement of the Native-Americans (Indians) emphasised the respect for tradition and different cultures that was evident throughout the rodeo. A rodeo is a sporting event in which cowboys show their various skills such as roping calves, riding bulls, riding broncos (wild horses that habitually buck).

As a South African the Cowboy culture is something we only see on the movies. I’m used to farmers (‘boere’ as we call them in Afrikaans) who wear two-tone khaki shirts, Hi-Tech boots and drive in their Toyota ‘bakkie’ (the Afrikaans word for a pick-up). So, when we entered Pendleton and saw Cowboys riding on their horses with their Cowboy hats, long-sleeved check shirts, jeans and genuine Cowboy boots, it was like stepping into a movie scene. The difference was that it was authentic.

The Rodeo opens with the Round-up Queen and Princesses (cowgirls) riding in with their horses and ended with cowgirl barrel racing. Seeing them riding so freely on their horses touched me deeply and stirred something inside me. I could sense the connection and companionship that they had with their horses. The nurturing partnership between the cowboy and his horse was ever present.

I was quite surprised by my emotional reaction. After some reflection I came to the conclusion that we all have a cowgirl or cowboy inside of us. Most young boys dream of becoming cowboys. I also recall fond childhood memories of horse riding with a close friend on their farm. Horses draw us into a relationship with them. Riding them symbolises freedom, courage and a mysterious union with nature.

Throughout most of human history our relationship with horses is a particular close one. The sight of the interaction between horse and man riding together was enough to activate this affection that lies deep within me. Winston Churchill described it best when he said ‘There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man’. Nowadays, for most of us, our interaction with horses is limited. Yet the horse remains ever waiting…

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