Rodeo No Longer a Man’s Game [VIDEO]

From a piece in the Star Tribune:

Kenzi Cleys, a 17-year-old from Brainerd who will attend modeling school next year, overheard the gossip at work. The new girl, someone said, is afraid to get dirty.

“I told them, ‘You’d be surprised, but I roll in the dirt every weekend,'” she said. “I rodeo.”

If horse racing is the sport of kings, rodeo has become Minnesota’s sport of princesses. At this weekend’s state high school rodeo tournament in Hugo, 60 percent of the participants are girls — a ratio that defies macho cowboy images and grows even more lopsided as riders mature.

The risk of injury from the boys’ rough-stock events, the expense of buying calves for practicing and the perceived need to begin training for rough-stock events when other kids are learning to ride bicycles has kept even boys in rural areas away from rodeos.

But Terry Cleys, the high school national rodeo director for Minnesota and a former rodeo star, has a much simpler explanation for why 48 of the 81 contestants at the high-school tournament are girls.

“There’s something about a little girl and a horse,” said Cleys, whose daughters Madi and Kenzi, the 2010 state high school rodeo queen, began riding as toddlers.

“Little girls love their horses. Boys want snowmobiles. I grew up watching ‘Gunsmoke.’ Today, boys grow up watching extreme sports and want skateboards.”

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