Q&A: Miss Rodeo K-State talks about rodeo culture on campus

Unsurprisingly, horses and their riders are an essential part of any rodeo. The 2019 Wildcat Ranch Rodeo took place at Weber Arena in Manhattan from Feb. 8 to Feb. 10. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

Bailey Jo Jeffries, the 2018 winner of Miss Rodeo K-State, will pass along her rodeo queen title on Saturday at the Kansas State University College Rodeo. Jeffries graduated from K-State in December 2018 with a degree in animal sciences and industry, and she sat down for a Q&A session with the Collegian to discuss rodeo culture.

Sarah Moyer, staff writer: “Why do young people get involved with rodeo, and what are its benefits?”

Jeffries: “I would say that the first reason why people get involved with rodeo would probably have to be their love for horses, mainly. … Then there’s the competition side of it … and then I think once they get into it and are around the atmosphere and the rodeo culture, the family atmosphere is kind of what gets them really hooked.”

Moyer: “Unlike some sports, there is prize money involved, so does that change the atmosphere around rodeo? You talked about a family atmosphere. How do those two mesh?”

Jeffries: “I don’t think it causes conflict or anything between anyone. I think that it would only increase their drive and their competitiveness. They really want to do well, and it would only make them want to work harder at it, because there’s then prize money involved.
Participants in the 2019 Wildcat Ranch Rodeo rope a steer in Weber Arena. The event took place in Manhattan from Feb. 8 to Feb. 10. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

“Not all of the associations are like that. Some of them, especially like the college rodeo, it doesn’t pay out as much. … So I would say that it does increase the want to … do it a lot more if they get paid to do it. And some people make their living [in rodeos].”

Moyer: “Describe rodeo’s culture here at K-State. What is unique about it?”

Jeffries: “How well everyone works together, like the kind of family atmosphere that I was talking about. I personally haven’t spent a whole lot of time around rodeo in general because I grew up showing cutting horses. … Just in my time here at K-State, I came into the rodeo club and that’s kind of what got me started. … Here at K-State, since we all have classes together and everything, everyone just gets along really well.”

Moyer: “If someone finds rodeo to be violent, what would you say to them?”

Jeffries: “I would say that it’s not violent at all. In fact, especially people like PETA who are really concerned about the animal welfare part of it, I would say that’s not the case at all. The animals are very well taken care of.

“A lot of these people you see in a rodeo arena, most of the time they would put themselves in front of the animal before it got hurt. … That’s why in some of the events, you get penalized if you injure the animal or hurt it in any way, even if you spur it or something like that. And you can even be disqualified for the rodeo for that in some events, so I would say that animal welfare is a number one priority in the arena at all times for every contestant.”

Moyer: “What is the difference between the Wildcat Ranch Rodeo and the College Rodeo coming up?”

Jeffries: “So it’s kind of like two different worlds, if you would — completely different events. The Ranch Rodeo is supposed to be all events that you would do practically outside on a ranch every day, like having to [push down] and doctor a calf or go catch a runaway steer on a ranch. So you also have different competitors in that as well.
Participants in the 2019 Wildcat Ranch Rodeo tie a steer's legs together as part of the team roping event. The Ranch Rodeo took place at Weber Arena in Manhattan from Feb. 8 to Feb. 10. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

“So most of these people that are competing in this rodeo are all local ranches that work every single day. All that they do for a living is strictly cowboy. So these events that they’re doing, they do every day versus your College Rodeo, you’re going to have your classic events like you would in like a [Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association] rodeo: bronco riding, bull riding, barrel racing, steer roping, bull dogging … so the events are completely different. Then, of course, in the College Rodeo they’re all college contestants, whereas here they’re older.”

Moyer: “Are there still college students who compete at the Ranch Rodeo?”

Jeffries: “Yeah! Actually, tonight we have a team of some kids from the K-State College Rodeo team that entered, and they’ve never Ranch Rodeo’d before. They’re actually holding their own.”

Moyer: “Is rodeo more of a sport or a lifestyle?”

Jeffries: “I would say it’s probably a lifestyle. … When you do rodeo or do anything horseback, I feel like you live it and breathe it every day because you do have animals involved, so you have to take care of them every single day. And just the amount of time you have to work at doing it, I think it’s definitely a lifestyle for sure, because it’s so much more than having a game to go play or something like that.”

Moyer: “At most every rodeo, it starts out with the national anthem and a prayer. What does that reflect about the values of the rodeo community?”

Jeffries: “I think that says a lot about the rodeo community. You go some places like a football game or wherever else, and they’ll just do the national anthem. But as a believer and someone who is very faith-oriented, saying a prayer just means so much to me, and I think it says a lot about the rodeo community as a whole.

“That kind of just goes back into that family atmosphere. To be able to have everyone in the arena bow their heads and thank God and pray for the safety of not only the animals but also the contestants before every performance, I think that really says a lot about the community. It just makes you feel really good inside.”

Moyer: “Why would you recommend that K-State students attend a rodeo?”

Jeffries: “I think a lot of people don’t know about it, which is crazy because the K-State College Rodeo is the largest student-organized event throughout the entire campus. … It makes [rodeo organizers] feel very appreciated when we see the stands are full, and every year, they are. Usually people are standing because there is not even any room to sit.

“A lot of kids on campus don’t even know that we have a rodeo team, which I think is pretty sad because they do really well. They put a lot of time and effort into it. Our team practices multiple times a week on top of being a student and working and doing all these other things, so I think it says a lot just to get to know the students, like you would the football team or the basketball team.”