Behind the Chutes: 'World's Oldest Rodeo' tour provides history lesson for all involved – Prescott Daily Courier

July 4, 2019 - Comment

The Behind the Chutes Tour at Prescott Frontier Days July 1 offered a glimpse into the 132-year history of the “World’s Oldest Rodeo” while showcasing the intricacies of the Rodeo Grounds. Shelby Blocker led the approximately hour-long tour, as she has done in prior years, with volunteers’ help. Some 20 to 30 people participated in


The Behind the Chutes Tour at Prescott Frontier Days July 1 offered a glimpse into the 132-year history of the “World’s Oldest Rodeo” while showcasing the intricacies of the Rodeo Grounds.

Shelby Blocker led the approximately hour-long tour, as she has done in prior years, with volunteers’ help. Some 20 to 30 people participated in the tour, which started and ended at the top of the grandstands.

The 2019 pro rodeo, which continues through Sunday, July 7, with eight performances, will draw 566 contestants. Many of them are among the best in the world in steer wrestling, bareback riding, tie-down roping, saddle bronc riding, team roping, women’s barrel racing and bull riding.

Prescott Frontier Days General Manager J.C. Trujillo, a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Hall of Fame bareback rider and a Prescott native, spoke briefly to begin the tour.

He specifically talked about the bucking horses and bulls from the Colorado-based Vold Rodeo Co., a Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame stock contractor that has worked the rodeo here since 1972. Worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, these animals are “bred to buck,” Trujillo says.

“Their owners treat them really well,” Trujillo added about the horses and bulls. “If there’s an afterlife, I wouldn’t mind coming back as a bucking horse.”

ROUGH STOCK

Walk down the grandstand’s concrete steps, turn left and you will notice several pens where the livestock for the rodeo’s timed events, such as team roping, are kept. Horses, cows, steers and calves are often found chomping on hay and drinking water from large plastic tubs.

This week, there’s a rare sight, though — a zebra. It is not particularly friendly, but John Payne, also known as the “One-Armed Bandit,” incorporates it into a thrilling specialty act during each performance.

Once past the pens, head to the chutes on the opposite side of the grandstand and you will see the bucking horses and bulls. That’s where Vold Rodeo Co. owner Kirsten Vold tends to them.

The Vold Rodeo Co. provides livestock for the riders and ropers, and safety is key. Vold shared with tour participants the different pieces of equipment that bareback, saddle-bronc and bull riders use in their events.

Vold said bucking horses are randomly assigned to contestants at pro rodeos. And, like bulls, horses are limited to the number of rides they do at rodeos each year — usually no more than 12 to 16. Bulls typically buck in competition eight to 12 times per year.

Vold enjoys talking about her job, and she has worked at Prescott Frontier Days for several years. Her late father, Harry Vold, came for decades; he often was seen riding a golf cart around the rodeo grounds.

“This is a great arena for bucking because it is built for that,” Kirsten said.

SHIRE HORSES

After a stop to learn about the timed-event stock, the tour ends in the vast dirt lot on the west side of the grounds.

On the far end you will find the Diamond Z English Shire horses. For about 15 minutes during each performance, five of these tall, elegant horses are hooked to a green wagon and cowboy/ex-jockey Chris Hone drives them into and around the arena.

Hone has performed several maneuvers with these enormous horses since 1989 for their owners, Ree and Renn Zaphiropoulos. Hone trains and drives the horses on a ranch near Cedar City, Utah.

During the tour, participants pet the horses, whose heads stand 8 feet from the ground. Weighing between 1,800 to 2,000 pounds, shires are known for the dark hair on their bodies and the white hair at the base of their legs.

These horses feed on grass hay with a specialized nutritional supplement developed specifically for them.

“They’re very kind,” Ree Zaphiropoulos said, “and they’re gentle, wonderful animals.”

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