Rodeo teens to compete at Jackson County Fairgrounds

Brownstown’s Colton Whittymore is an Indiana rodeo cowboy because he is not so keen on football and baseball.

Calf roping and team roping are his sports, even if that makes him a minority in this part of the country. As a back country trails rider, mostly in Brown County, Whittymore, 15, discovered an affinity for horses when he was young, and now, some of his best friends gallop.

He chose precision events, where he must be in sync with his running horse and his roping partner, Josh Rorig, 18, also of Brownstown.

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“It takes hard work and dedication,” said Whittymore, who is in his fourth year of rodeo competition telepathically communicating with his horse. “Every step has to be in rhythm.”

It is not mandatory that the teens entering the Indiana High School and Junior High Association Rodeo on Saturday and Sunday at the Jackson County Fairgrounds in Brownstown know how to spell yippee-ki-ay, but they should know it is relevant to cowboy culture.

Between 50 and 100 young people are expected for the Saturday-Sunday rodeo. There is slack (overflow) at 10 a.m. Saturday, but the main performance is 7 p.m. that evening and the event concludes with a 7 p.m. show Sunday.

Admission is $5, though children 12 and under get in free.

Whittymore’s friends will assume he was present and accounted for and first thing Monday almost surely ask him first how he did.

Rodeo is scheduled to continue through the school year, and points will accumulate towards a title, but it has been months since many competitors were in the arena, and they are excited to go.

“Just getting back into it,” said Madelyn Clark, 14, of Columbus of what she is looking forward to most about this rodeo.

Under the influence of her mother’s background in the sport, Clark said she has been around rodeo since she was in kindergarten, and her favorite event is goat tying.

Rorig’s family has a rodeo background, too, and that wooed him into the cowboy sport that got its beginnings in the United States among ranch hands indulging in personal challenges during their free time. He also had an older brother attracted to the utensils of the trade, and Rorig followed his lead.

“I got started in preschool,” Rorig said. “Kindergarten.”

Pardon him for not remembering for sure since few recall their earliest days with exactitude.

Rorig is focused on making this season a big year since the end of high school beckons.

“It’s my senior year,” he said. “I’m very excited.”

It is not as if all of Rorig’s classmates are ignorant about rodeo, but as Whittymore noted, most are more into the more prominent North American professional sports.

Rorig said if a friend attended a rodeo like this weekend’s, he would recommend he approach it with curiosity.

“It would be a different experience,” he said. “You can learn a lot from people around you.”

In other words, newbie spectators should not be shy. They should ask questions if they don’t follow what is happening.

Paige Davidson, 14, of Columbus, who attends Trinity Lutheran High School in Seymour, said depending on what rodeo she enters, she might sign up for as many as five events, but at the fairgrounds, she will be focused on barrel racing and goat tying.

Barrel racing is her main thing, and she owns two horses, which have trained and competed for years running the cloverleaf pattern. Gunner, 22, has been around the block but also around more barrels during his longer life than has Paige.

Gunner, Davidson said, probably knows more than most riders about the most efficient way to approach a barrel at full speed. This horse has been a barrels specialist for his whole life.

Davidson began barrel racing at 6 and has great aspirations in the sport. As a fan, she follows some of the biggest racers in rodeo whom she can see compete on television and has favorites she cheers on.

Some of her friends used to rodeo, Davidson said, so they do understand the sport somewhat and can talk with her about how she did.

“Some of them do,” she said.

Right now, Davidson just has the itch to get back on the dirt and compete over these two days.

“I’ve not rodeoed since October,” she said.