SHERIDAN — Riders, dolled up in cowboy gear and protective equipment, mount livestock and strap in for exhilarating go-rounds.
Fans scurry to find their seats, grab a popcorn or hotdog and enjoy the thrill of competition.
The Sheridan WYO Rodeo is one of the most iconic weeks each and every year for Wyoming’s sixth largest city. However, without the tireless efforts of local veterinarians, most of it wouldn’t happen.
This year’s rodeo will feature four veterinarians: Candace Carden, Sammie Perkins, Sarah Schreiber and Shawn Tatman.
All four will share veterinarian responsibilities during the entire week of rodeo.
Schreiber has worked as a veterinarian in Sheridan for nearly two decades and she’s helped out at numerous Sheridan WYO Rodeos. She’s assessed all kinds of injuries and treated many different kinds of rodeo animals.
And while the week can prove challenging, Schreiber enjoys it.
“I like the hecticness of it,” Schreiber said. “I like the intensity of it. It can be really stressful, especially trying to get back and forth from the rodeo and my practice. It’s one of my busiest weeks of the year, but at the same time I enjoy it. I always crave intensity, and I feel like I function best when I’m going a million miles an hour.”
Schreiber will receive some in-house help this year as her newest veterinarian, Perkins, will also assist with the rodeo. Perkins, who is slated to be on duty Wednesday for the first performance, started working for Schreiber in November and will take part in her second WYO Rodeo.
Perkins feels much more comfortable this time around now that she knows what to except.
“It was a good experience last year but definitely stressful, just not having that much experience and then going and working at a pro rodeo,” Perkins said. “Overall, it was a really good experience. They asked if I wanted to do it again this year and I said, ‘Definitely.’”
Schreiber attended the steer roping slack Tuesday morning, and before competition got underway, she attended to an injury. One of the contestant’s horses bumped into a pipe and opened a wound on its right leg.
Typically, Schreiber hasn’t had to asses many injuries during slack. The rough stock events and especially the Indian relay races are where Schreiber’s, and all the veterinarians’ expertise, is called upon.
Last year, Schreiber treated a horse that collided with another during the relay races. The horse was diagnosed with some bruising. In that instance, Schreiber was in the arena and mobile with a crash kit immediately following the injury. She assessed the animal on the track before giving it a further evaluation off the track in a medical area outside the arena.
The horse made a full recovery, and that’s similar to most injuries at the rodeo. Many of the horses suffer strains and soft-tissue ailments. Sometimes bulls will contract an infected horn or pink eye. Roping calves and steers will on occasion break a leg but make a full recovery a couple months down the line.
The animals at the rodeo are attended to with the utmost attention to detail by each and every veterinarian. And while it may look violent out there at times, rodeo encompasses what the animals are born to do — literally.
“Most of the animals, especially rough stock, are bred to do those things,” Schreiber said. “They’re like football players. That’s in their genes. That’s how they’re trained.”
Carden — who used to compete in rodeo and has worked at competitions as prestigious as the National Finals Rodeo — has seen firsthand how the animals at most rodeos are treated and believes wholeheartedly that they’re taken care of properly.
“I think that they are actually extremely well taken care of,” Carden said. “I would go toe-to-toe with anybody who said they are abused.
“… The bucking horses, they love their jobs. We are with them prior to the rodeo, and we open the chutes, let them out and they buck with nothing on them. That’s just what they love to do.”
The fans love it too. And when they give a standing ovation to a cowboy pulling himself up off the ground after a ride, the veterinarians stay alert and at the ready to make sure the show goes on.