SHERIDAN — The buckles sitting on the shelf and the saddles placed in the corner of the living room are done gathering winter dust because the countdown to high school spring rodeo ends today.
For most contestants, rodeo is a dream passed down for generations: Their great grandpa was a four-time world champion; their dad was a three-time world champion; and their mom was a two-time world champion.
They count down the seconds to the first week of December when they can watch all the twists, turns and rope burns of the National Finals Rodeo.
They start young, in small town Fourth of July rodeos where they compete in the same arena as mom, dad and grandpa in those small events — mutton busting, little man bull riding, and peewee barrel racing — that lead to big events like team roping and saddle bronc riding.
“I’ve rode horses since I was born,” SHS rodeo team member Shyanna Cahoy said. “I’ve been rodeoing since I was little in barrels and poles. My whole family rodeos, including my grandpa. He still team ropes.”
Most high school rodeo teams do not have a coach, including Sheridan. They are on their own when it comes to practicing and competing.
“You don’t have to tell us to practice; our practice is more like a hobby than actual practicing,” Sheridan bronc rider Jeffery Zdziarski said. “We enjoy to practice and look for every opportunity to practice.”
Team members pay for their travel, food and entry fee. Most contestants stay in their living quarters of their horse trailer or get a hotel and hope to win at the rodeo to pay for their expenses.
Gambling on the eight seconds it takes to make the short round is just one of the battles. Rodeo is a team event, a partnership between team ropers, racer and barrel horse or rider and bull, that requires each participant, animal or human, to bring their “A” game to get a good run or score.
That team mentality, even in solo events, has allowed some Sheridan athletes to reach top standing in their events.
Jeffery Zdziarski is sitting third in the all-around as he enters the spring season. Zdziarski is on top for bareback riding and sitting second behind in saddle bronc.
Whitney Simmons from Sheridan is sitting second in breakaway and third in barrel racing.
Cahoy and her team roping partner Cricket Cunningham, from Banner, meet up often to practice. When it’s cold they practice at Cunningham’s indoor arena.
“Since I don’t have an official coach, my parents are my coach,” Cunningham said. “They show me what I do wrong and help me work on fixing those mistakes.”
Yes, it’s time to brush off that winter dust and chase the saddle from one rodeo to another — beginning Saturday at the first rodeo of spring in Laramie. Sheridan will host its rodeo at the fairgrounds arena May 25-26.