(SUN PHOTO/William Thompson) Chase Pope practices his steer wrestling technique at the Mesalands Community College arena. Pope chose the Mesalands Rodeo Team over other teams in his native Texas.
The Mesalands Community College Rodeo Team is competing in Stephenville, Texas today and, no matter the individual results, Coach Danny Garcia has team members dedicated to his philosophy of approaching rodeo competition as a team sport.
“When one of us does something wrong in competition, all of us come together and try to find out what was done wrong so we can correct it,” Garcia said. “We are a true team. We all cheer on each participant. Some college teams are not like that.”
Casey Jo Light has been with the Mesalands team for a year. She said learning to ride and rope at Mesalands has taught her life lessons.
“It’s made me learn a lot about teamwork and friendship,” Light said, “and I’ve learned that if you get hurt you just have to get back on the horse and do it again.”
Team members live near one another, attend school together and often practice together six or seven hours a day throughout the week. Garcia watches each member practice their events, everything from barrel racing to steer wrestling, or “bull dogging.” He said he spends a lot of time just reminding riders of proper positioning.
Miranda Jaramillo has been practicing barrel racing daily.
“I spend about two hours a day just trotting and walking the horse around the barrels,” Jaramillo said. “The reason you spend so much time just trotting and walking is because the rider and the horse have to get to know each other so they both know what each will do.”
Garcia’s reputation as a coach brings rodeo students from all over Texas and New Mexico. Jeff Robertson came from Albuquerque to learn team roping from Garcia.
“He (Garcia) first taught me horsemanship and how to approach a steer on horseback,” Robertson said. “He gives me reminders like telling me the proper follow-through motion.”
Steer wrestler Chase Pope chose the Mesalands team over college teams from his native Texas.
“He (Garcia) lets us practice a lot,” Pope said. “He understands everything about rodeo. It’s a blast. I wouldn’t trade this for anything.”
Pope, who weighs 150 pounds, wrestles steers twice his size.
“It’s fun when you weigh half of what a bull weighs and can throw the bull down. It’s quite an adrenaline rush.”
Garcia said the skills needed to rope calves, ride bulls and wrestle steers translate into life skills.
“I really enjoy being able to teach kids right from wrong,” Garcia said. “Rodeo makes a person better able to make decisions or do anything they want in life. It builds self-esteem.”