Rodeo riders prepare for Pioneer Days

Eric Butler

If there isn’t someone who once won a world championship, or at least challenged for one, coming out of the chute during the 34th annual Pioneer Days PRCA rodeo over the next three nights, just look over to the cowboys lining the fence waiting their turn.
Because there’s bound to be someone nearby who’s a standout in one of the seven competitions that will be taking place.
Cowboys will battle for bareback riding, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, calf roping, team roping and bull riding crowns while the cowgirls will compete in barrel racing.
The rodeo begins at 8 nightly Thursday through Saturday in the Mounted Patrol Arena at the Curry County Fairgrounds.
Bob Lacy of the Mounted Patrol, the organizing body for the event, said many of the sports top cowboys and cowgirls will be entered..
“In the bareback, we’ve got Royce Ford — whose father (Bruce) was a several-time world champion — and he’s up there right now. I think he’s number one or two in the world,” Lacy said. “And we’ve got Mark Gomes and Jeffrey Collins who are world-class bareback riders.”
In saddle bronc riding, former Eastern New Mexico University cowboy Justen Washburn is expected to battle for the top while Cash Meyers is a standout in steer wrestling who will also compete in team roping.
Also in the team roping event will be Joe Beaver, a one-time all-around PRCA champion.
Another for ENMU standout, Brent Lewis of Pinion, will be one of the contestants in calf roping, an event he finished as world runner-up two years ago.
In barrel racing, the lone women’s event, Alamogordo’s Sheri Estrada enters the Pioneer Days rodeo as a strong contender for the season title.
“This year, we’ve got a lot more contestants than we’ve had in the past,” says Dewey Pierce, a Mounted Patrol captain. “We’re not sure why. We cut out the steer roping this year. Last year, we had around 300 and the steer ropers were around 45.
“But we’ve got around 317 entered this year, so we’re pretty pleased with what’s happening on that end of it,” Pierce added.
As for the crowd-pleasing event of bull riding, rodeo-goers on any of the three nights shouldn’t feel shortchanged.
On Thursday, 18 cowboys will try for the eight-second ride while 16 more are slated to compete on both Friday and Saturday night.