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Crowds love the energy and excitement of rodeos, where talented horse riders vie for attention and prizes by demonstrating horsemanship skills. Working outside, interacting with top-notch horses and entertaining fans makes for a lively workday. Rodeo careers involve different aspects of helping a rodeo function; some jobs involve showmanship while others emphasize behind-the-scenes action. Learning what types of rodeo careers are available helps you decide which job works best with your experience level, skills and professional preferences.
Rodeo businesses employ crew members that facilitate the basic operation of the rodeo. This career involves hands-on, physical labor. You’ll maintain the rodeo facility’s buildings, corral and fencing so that horses and other livestock remain safely enclosed. Other responsibilities include maintaining tack and completing routine first aid care for resident livestock; traveling rodeo horses may have their own animal medicine specialist. Rodeo crew careers also involve keeping the rodeo manager apprised of purchasing needs, including feed, tack repair supplies and corral equipment. You’ll also be responsible for feeding horses. Setting up and breaking down special equipment used in during the rodeo is another job responsibility. While working as a crew member may lack glamor compared with other rodeo careers, one advantage is that you’ll likely be based at one location rather than traveling from rodeo to rodeo.
Otherwise known as a “rodeo protection athlete,” a rodeo clown career involves physical skill and a certain amount of gumption. Rodeo clowns dress up in eye-catching outfits, working to distract a bull from a fallen bull rider. Entertaining the crowd is another aspect of the job, so animal knowledge and athletic ability must be accompanied by a sense of showmanship. You may travel frequently, landing gigs in different areas as part of a traveling rodeo. This job involves some physical danger, since you’ll be closely working with large animals and remaining in the ring as the bull rider and bull interact.
Rodeo cowboys carry a special place in American “Old West” mythology, representing an adventurous spirit and athletic skill in the ring. This career carries plenty of drawbacks, including long hours on the road and risk of serious injury. But rodeo cowboys enjoy the excitement of competition, camaraderie with other cowboys and close interaction with superior horses. Cowboys participate in rodeo competitions, demonstrating traditional skills like jumping, lassoing or running barrels.
Another career option is the rodeo announcer. This job involves intimate knowledge of the sport, so that play-by-play updates can be communicated to the crows. You’ll need to know the names, competition numbers and jerseys of competitors to quickly identify who is competing and access background information to relay to the audience. Knowledge of a horse’s skills, personality and performance history helps keep commentary lively. Radio announcers must also be entertaining; the crowd wants to hear an enthusiastic, wry or funny commentator throughout the show.
Perhaps the most skilled rider in the rodeo, the pick-up rider must immediately swoop in and rescue a fallen rider during rodeo competitions. Otherwise, competitors might be seriously injured by other horses, bulls or livestock. Knowledge of horses, a keen eye for fallen riders and calm demeanor are important skills for pick-up riders, who must tune out the cheering crowds and focus on the rescue.
Morgan Rush is a California journalist specializing in news, business writing, fitness and travel. He's written for numerous publications at the national, state and local level, including newspapers, magazines and websites. Rush holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.