An hour before the arena doors were due to open at Osceola Heritage Park, hundreds of rodeo fans were lining up ready for America’s original sport…rodeo. Now this wasn’t just any old rodeo…this was the Wrangler Champions Challenge!
Every year, the PRCA Wrangler Champions Challenge comes to Florida, bringing with top athletes and some bad-ass roughstock with them. Competing for upwards of $16,000 for each event and $400 appearance fee going to each contestant from that payout. The WCC (Wrangler Champions Challenge) is one of the highest paying PRCA one-go rodeos.
The contestants are broken up into 11 teams – the teams sponsors include: Wrangler, Justin’s Boots, B&W Trailer Hitches, RAM, Coors Banquet, Experience Kissimmee, Las Vegas and Pro Rodeo Gear. These team rosters are drafted in mid January.
This is a geographical challenging and diverse rodeo series event that covers 9 states from Washington to Florida. Stats for each team will be tracked and a champion announced in the fall at the FINALE in Pasadena, Texas, September 2016.
The WCC is a nice lead into rodeo season which is mainly from June to October but we hold that date open very loosely. With the WCC starting in February and thousands of other major rodeos around the country, these athletes continue drive the relentless and unforgiving rodeo road all in the name of living their dreams and being, or becoming, a rodeo champion.
Speaking of rodeo champions; rodeo veteran, world champion & 4 time NFR qualifier, Mary Walker, stopped by and spoke with International Cowgirl briefly.
Here was our interview:
IC: First off, how is your day going?
MW: Busy! I left Salt Lake this morning at 6am, stopped in Dallas, changed planes, and got here about 2pm.
IC: Tell me a little about your lead/main barrel horses(s). Side note: I’m a Latte fan! 🙂
MW: My lead horse is Latte, as you know, he is 12 years old and a gelding. I had to leave him…he is in Montana right now and so I am on a 6-year-old tonight, that I’ve run a little bit and his name is Bojangles.
IC: Who inspires you?
MW: Who inspires me? Wow…there is so many people who inspire me. Um…Martha Josey has inspired me throughout my years barrel racing because she is so great with kids and she is just an awesome person to look up to. Gosh, each and every one of these contestants inspire me, because we work so hard to get our dreams so I really think each and every one of them.
IC: What did you do to train for tonight?
MW: I’ve been on the rodeo road about, oh…going on 4 weeks so far away from home so I consider that training. Competing and trying to get your balance and your sync with your horses and make sure they are all working good. We train every day.
So after doing a little happy dance, which probably embarrassed my PR coordinator, I hugged Mary Walker, left her to go warm up Bojangles and I ran off to cover the rest of the rodeo like the boot wearing ninja that I claim and try to be.
Side note: Mary & Bojangles went on the win the barrel racing event at the WCC with a smokin’ 15.54 second run! Congratulations to them!
So off I ran to behind the chutes since CBS gave all other press and media a short but sweet 5 minute window in which they could join them behind the chutes. Climbing behind the chutes is one of my favourite places to be at a rodeo. I am beginning to narrow down my niche spots at these events and behind the chutes is probably on the top of my list. This is where they hold the horses and bulls before ushering them into their chutes; this is also where I fell in love with roughstock bronc, Universal Mama Don’t Know Painted Pony. He had me stopped in my tracks, jaw dropped, the whole heart thumping, I need this horse in my life type of feelings.
Anywho! The cowboys usually warm up back there and prep their equipment (saddles, bronc flancs, straps and so on). You usually see them praying, stretching, doing their pre-ride routines or checking their phones; talking to family members who couldn’t make it on the trip all the way down to sunny Florida.
Everything has to be just right…especially when there is a lot of money on the line, like there is at events…this is their livelihood and how they pay to keep their families afloat. They are keeping the western culture and lifestyle alive! I, personally, am thankful for such things…it’s a simple and hard-working way of life. These people are some of the hardest working and most humble you will ever meet and this is one of the many reasons that I love and support the sport of rodeo. You get out of it, what you put into it.
I am going to pause here and leave you on somewhat of a cliff-hanger…I covered so much on the Wrangler Champions Challenge that I feel it would be better broken up into a couple of posts instead of dragging on and on, so hang tight…Florida Welcomes Back The Big Leagues will continue later this week.
Stay safe & God Bless!