I’m going to try my best to stay calm about this, however when something isn’t right someone has to stand up for what is right. As a breakaway roper it is my recommendation that if you are looking for a good open rodeo to enter do not attend a Ward Rodeo Company rodeo. I will explain my opinion in depth.
First, let me lay down the scene for you. Two of my very dear friends graduated college today. My hauling partner and I (whom happened to be one who graduated) had been looking for some good open rodeos to go to after graduation. Originally we had planned on attending an open in Gracemont, Okla., but because of time conflicts with graduation we just weren’t going to be able to make the drive in time. So, we decided that the Ward Rodeo would be closest we might as well go to that one. Little did we know that would be our biggest mistake of the night.
We made it in plenty of time, entered the breakaway roping and were shocked to see that there were only six girls entered (including us). Now, there were a lot of other rodeos this weekend so we thought that’s probably why they had such poor attendance. Wrong again. We soon found out why so small a number of girls chose to enter this rodeo. I was second out and had drawn a black calf that was suppose to be a runner. My game plan was to go with movement be on the barrier and rope him sharp and short. I backed my little black mare into the back of the box, waited for the calf to get set and nodded. I was late. Now folks I’m not talking just a little late, no sir the calf was out of the chute before I gave my mare the go ahead. I tracked up to the middle of the pen and with only six girls entered a solid run, even if it would have been long would have at least given me a chance. But I sat up did the “big swing” and sent it across his head. Ugly. Let me tell you it was an ugly loop. I’m not one to act like I rope better than I do, I’ll admit when I just plain screw it up and that’s what I did this night. As it turns out not another breakaway roper caught. Six girls and everyone missed. What do you think happened next? Yeah I know what you’re thinking… Ground money. That’s what I and three quarters of the breakaway ropers and half the calf ropers thought too. But not with this rodeo company. Nope, this folks is where it gets interesting.
But first, for those of you who might not know, let me explain what ground money is. The money paid when the purse for an event is split equally and paid to all contestants in the event. This is done when all contestants entered in an event fail to qualify. In other words when everyone misses the stock contractor takes out their part of stock fees and give the contestants back the rest of their entry fees. Seems simple enough. A nice gesture for sure. I know in this day and age with open rodeos slowly, but surely, losing attendance if I was a stock contractor I would definitely try to reward my following and show my appreciation for the few people that still attend my rodeos. Apparently this is not a huge concern with Ward Rodeo Company. We walked up to talk to the rodeo secretary who informed us that ground money was not paid at this rodeo. When I asked why her answer was “I’m the secretary, these are my cattle and we don’t pay ground money”. We were next informed if we had a problem we could speak with her son Cody who runs the rodeo. Perfect. Sounds great let’s go have a chit-chat. Apparently chatting is not something that this family understands. Right off the bat this guy is defensive. He starts with “no ground money is paid”, moves to it’s not my fault they all missed, (fair enough, but if you want any girls to come back ground money is a good idea), then when asked what rule book he is using he didn’t know. Obviously it was whatever rule book benefited him at the moment.
Moral of the story, no ground money was paid. I personally, and I feel I can speak for several of the other girls, feel robbed. Robbed as if stole from by common thieves. The fact of the matter is with other open rodeo companies they pay ground money, because the money that isn’t stock fees and office charges would be money to be paid to contestants. Well I feel like by keeping that money they stole from us. I wouldn’t have a problem if someone beats me fair and square. I would be happy to see a fellow roper walk away with all the money. But when no one catches then the stock contractor keeps stock and office fees plus contestant money, in my opinion that’s stealing. The stock and office fees is how rodeo companies make money. That money is a set amount that is paid to the rodeo company from entry fees whether anyone catches or not. All other money is money to be paid to contestants one way or another. At this rodeo Ward Rodeo Company kept their part (stock and office fees) plus all the breakaway contestant money.
I could talk all day about this but the simple fact of the matter is that I won’t be going back to another Ward Rodeo Company rodeo and I encourage you not to either. There are plenty of rodeos around, so as rodeo athletes we shouldn’t have to attend one that is ran poorly by contractors who don’t care about anyone but themselves and making a buck. I personally would rather go to one that loves the sport of rodeo, runs a fair show and respects their contestants enough to pay ground money in the hopes that contestants will follow them on the road. Takes respect to get respect folks. Ward Rodeo Company lost my respect tonight.