In defence of child rodeo riders

LETTER TO THE EDITOR:

I AM responding to Laura McConville’s letter to the editor headed ‘Unhappy with Sale rodeo event’.

Rodeo is no different to any other sport; there is always a chance of injury.

Unfortunately some people who watch from the sidelines will never understand why kids would want to participate in high risk sports like rodeo.

Kids are injured every weekend playing mainstream sports like football, soccer and cricket, but this is socially more acceptable because most of us have also played these sports as children.

It becomes very much the norm for children to be taken to emergency departments with broken wrists or black eyes on any given Saturday, and it is almost regarded as a badge of honour for placing themselves in amongst competitive play.

Most of the kids that ride in rodeos have parents who were once riders themselves, so when a child shows interest in trying to master the art of riding bucking animals it is often more stressful as a former competitor to watch your child take part in a high risk sport like rodeo because we are more than aware of the dangers involved and know well the result when it all goes wrong.

So what as a parent should we do from here?

Take a hypocritical stand and refuse to let them participate?

Or push them towards a safer sport that they clearly have no interest in and wonder why later on in their teenage years they are wandering the streets looking for something that may give them the adrenaline rush they yearn for?

People have the false perception that these kids turn up to a rodeo and climb on to try their luck because today they want to be a cowboy. This is far from the truth.

These kids, regardless of their age, spend the off season at practice days put on by rodeo contractors, and most have their own arena and bucking chutes set up at home where they practice on ponies and steers three to four times a week after school.

As parents we cannot pick and choose what sports our kids show interest in, but if we have to head down a road we are not overly thrilled about, then the best we can do is provide support in practice and training with as much protective gear on them as possible to hopefully limit the chance of injury and give them a fighting chance at staying onboard for the eight seconds.

At rodeos there are skilled protection clowns and pick riders to assist and do everything possible to remove a rider from a dangerous situation when it all goes wrong, but sometimes rider injury is inevitable.

To be good at any sport it takes practice and training from a young age and rodeo is no different.

Formula 1 superstar Michael Schumacher was racing go-karts at four years of age, but even after seven world championship titles it was a leisurely day skiing the slopes that led to him fighting for his life in a coma after an horrific fall.

As parents we will continue to drive to the next rodeo feeling sick to our stomach while trying to smile and show support for our kids and their chosen sport.