Friday, March 12, 2010

More Equine Pursuits

...actually in addition to horses, there were also cows/bulls (the appropriate cowboy term is "steer"), goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, rabbits & even a couple of deer & alpaca thrown into the mix - a veritable Animal Farm.This was the annual Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, a huge annual event in downtown Houston held at the impressive Reliant Stadium. It was bigger than I imagined; not only were there the typical events one might think of when you see the word "Rodeo", but there was also a large carnival area where one could play carnival games, go on rides like the Ferris wheel, and also a shopping area where vendors selling a large variety of products ranging from automobiles to western art to, of course, cowboy boots & hats (I was tempted to buy one but then I thought I would look kinda strange wearing a cowboy hat in Beijing).

A Texas Longhorn - this fella was HUGE

The deer that tried to eat my blouse (while I was wearing it!)

There were also events at which steer, goats, pigs, horses were "shown", much like how dogs & cats are shown i.e. paraded around by their handlers & inspected by judges & winning prizes. No clue how they are judged but I would guess things like the shape of its rump or how it stands & how it moves (but don't take my word for it).
Steer competition

One thing that struck me was how "odorless" the animal holding area was, seeing how the whole center was occupied by thousands of animals (steer, goats, pigs etc). One think I learnt is that horse poop is a lot more smelly than the other animals (they had a separate holding area in a different building & we could smell the ammonia-scent as soon as we walked in).
Highlight of the evening, of course, was the rodeo itself. The event started off with a touching rendition of the Star Spangled Banner sung by a representative from the Army, accompanied by fireworks set off in time to the tune (indoors!).The parade

I watched, in morbid fascination, at the bucking broncos trying to throw off the cowboys during the Bareback Riding & Bull Riding events. They (the humans) hanging on for dear life (literally) while being thrashed around like rag dolls on the backs of horses or bulls was almost painful to watch, especially when they were thrown off. One cowboy looked like he had a compound fracture of one of his limbs as it dangled uselessly while he was carried off the arena after being thrown. Another landed on the back of his neck but managed to walk off on his own. I wonder if he sustained any fractures to his cervical vertebrae.

The equestrian skill required to lasso a steer then jump off the horse, flip the steer over, and then tie two of its legs together is a wonder to watch. The horses are so well trained that they know exactly when to stop dead in their tracks when they need to. Horse & Man working together as one - what an accomplishment & a thrill to watch.

The sportsmanship between competitors as well as the spirit of support shown by the audience was palpable as they cheer their encouragement for those who did not do well in their events. One thing that stood out for me was the high level of patriotism shown by the Texans. Last night was "Support Our Troops" night & homage was paid to all the military ladies & gents repeatedly. Very touching.

The night was rounded off with a concert performance by Rascal Flatts. After watching John Mayer in concert a few days ago, this was rather an anti-climax as I am not a fan. I was impressed, though, by the mobile rotating stage that was rolled out to the middle of the arena for the concert.
All in all, an amazing experience!

Note: Please ignore the dates on the pictures - I forgot to reset the date on my camera!

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