2,000-pound challenge | TheUnion.com

2,000-pound challenge

Helping to fill the void left by this year’s cancellation of the Penn Valley Rodeo, Nevada County Horsemen will hold its sixth annual Big Bad Bulls and Wild West Rodeo this weekend.

Facing a community of rodeo goers longing for entertainment, this nonprofit horseman’s group will bring two nights of rodeo activities including everything from barrel racing and mutton bustin’ to a bull riding competition featuring some of the area’s finest athletes.

Thirty riders, including 20-year-old professional rider Scott Blankenship, will show off their athleticism during the main bull riding competition Friday.

Blankenship, who placed first overall in last year’s competition, explained that bull riding requires as much mental strength as it does physical ability.

“I’ve played other sports, but bull riding is the most athletic,” Blankenship said.

A Penn Valley resident, Blankenship said he first began riding calves when he was 9 and now trains every weekend at various locations around Northern California.

“You have to train your mind to react to the bull’s moves,” he said. “There is this 2,000-pound animal and you must convince yourself you can beat it.”

During the main rodeo season – April to October – Blankenship said he competes in 60 to 100 bull-riding competitions all across California and out of state.

To become a certified bull riding professional, he explained, riders have to earn $1,000 in combined winnings. This weekend’s rodeo, Blankenship said, is unique for the area because “there is decent money to be won.”

A family organization devoted to “the interests of horses and horsemen,” Nevada County Horsemen’s annual rodeo functions as a fund-raiser for the group and usually draws nearly 3,000 people each night, Jeff Peterson, chairmen of the rodeo committee said.

“We draw big crowds because our rodeo is centered around the family,” Bob Pelton, a rodeo committee member said. “In addition to normal rodeo events, we add activities for kids.”

With over 150 dues-paying members, Nevada County Horsemen sponsors horse-oriented events year round and offers a $500 scholarship to one of its outstanding members when they graduate from high school.

Youth activities at this year’s rodeo include a mutton bustin’ competition for 3-to-7-year-olds and a calf scramble for kids 14-years-old-and-under. Prizes for theses contests include a silver buckle for first place in the mutton bustin’ and a big bag of toys for the winner of the calf scramble.

Six members of the Northern California Junior Bull Riders Association will give an exhibition ride on steers each night before Blankenship and the other competitors jump on full grown bulls provided by Jeff Davis and the Four Star Rodeo Company.

The riders will be scored on a 50-point scale based on how well they adapt to the moves of the bull, Blankenship said.

According to rules of bull riding posted on the Professional Bull Riders association Web site (www.pbrnow.com), riders must hold onto the bull with one hand for at least 8 seconds. The rider’s free hand may not touch the bull, himself, or the ground during the entire ride.

In addition to the rider’s score, judges also grade the bull on a 50-point scale for its effort to expel the rider from its back. The two scores are then combined for one overall grade to the rider.

“Bull riding is an individual sport,” Blankenship explained. “But you’re not competing against the other contestants, you are competing against the bull.”

Blankenship will try to defend his title this Friday before heading to a rodeo in Redding on Saturday.

In two years, he hopes to qualify for the world bull riding finals held each year in Las Vegas.

“As long as I’m healthy,” he said. “I plan to ride.”

Know & Go

What: Big Bad Bulls and Wild West Rodeo

Who: Nevada County Horsemen’s Inc.

Where: 10600 Bubbling Wells Rd. off Brunswick in Grass Valley

When: Friday, July 30 and Saturday, July 31. Gates open at 4 p.m., BBQ at 5 p.m., performance at 7 p.m., and dancing at 9:30 p.m.

Cost: $10 in advance and $12 at the gate

Contact: 273-9453

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