There was much angst among competitors in the chutes Saturday during the sheep- and calf-riding competitions where many youngsters tested their courage, survived a few hard falls, and stood up to a few tough tears. In the end, each left with an amazing story to tell.
It was 5-year-old Daniel Phelps, of Lake Havasu City, who won the first-place ribbon at Delbert Days Rodeo’s Mutton Bustin’ competition on Saturday.
“I have never done it before,” Phelps said just before his ride. “I’m going to ride the sheep. I’m excited. I see boys fall off of bulls.”
Phelps said he had zero practice in the time leading up to the event, and the strategy proved itself worthy when he rode his sheep 6.75 seconds during the competition for the win.
The Mutton Bustin’ is a sheep-riding competition for youth who are 3-6 years of age. In all, 17 riders signed up this year. The youth calf riding, which followed Mutton Bustin’ on Saturday, is for youth who are 6-10 years of age. There were 15 riders.
“I’m going to ride a sheep because I want to,” said 4-year-old Corbin McShea, of Havasu. “I’m going to hug the sheep just like a pillow.”
McShea said he practiced one time with a pillow before Saturday’s event. McShea’s ride was short-lived after he bravely tumbled from the sheep just outside the chute. He fell hard and nearly lost a cowboy boot. A few rodeo clowns were on hand to pick him up and dust him off. In turn, McShea high-fived each of them and walked it off like any seasoned cowboy he looks up to.
Nyssa Medrano, 7, and Savannah Ruiz, 7, both of Blythe, Calif., also signed up to ride the sheep.
“I usually just ride a horse,” Medrano said.
Neither of the girls had practiced for the Mutton Bustin’ and neither had a strategy. The duo simply was in town enjoying the rodeo with family.
Third-year rider Kaleb Murdock, 7, of Havasu, said this year’s game plan for riding the sheep was to hold on and stay on.
“I’m trying to hold on to the hair to hold on and stay on,” Murdock said. “I am a little scared about falling off – if I would hit the ground too hard.”
After his ride, Murdock said he had a “good fall this time” and showed the participation ribbon and a ticket for a free lemonade that his efforts earned him. He will be back to ride again, he said.
Brielle Snedeker, 5, of Havasu, fell from her sheep, too.
“It was scary falling off,” she said, during a teary interview with River Scene Magazine.
The Mutton Bustin’ winners also included second-place winner 6-year-old Tristan Cherco, of Havasu, with a ride time of 6.6. seconds; and third-place winner 6-year-old Hunter Samson, of Havasu, with a 4.59 second ride.
Jeremiah Snedeker, 8, of Havasu, participated in the youth calf-riding event. The calf he rode broke hard left from the shoot and tossed Snedeker well into the air.
“It went a little bad, I flew off” Snedeker said. “It was pretty amazing because I was flying. It was awesome.”
Snedeker said he was feeling some discomfort in his hand after the fall but he was all in for riding again next time.
The effort earned Snedeker second-place in the Delbert Days Rodeo calf-riding competition. Other calf-riding competition winners include first-place winner 9-year-old Dylan Paull and third-place winner 10-year-old Gage Lawrence.
The ride times of the calf-riding competition weren’t immediately available at press time.
The Delbert Days Rodeo continues Sunday at the SARA Park rodeo grounds. Admission is $15/adults. Youth who are 15 and younger admitted for free. For more information, visit www.havasurodeo.com.