When I was a child growing up in Littleton, Colorado, I boarded my first horse at the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds. I also spent a great deal of time watching the other kids prepare and participate in the Little Britches Rodeo. Though I never had the money required for training and competition, it was just as much fun for me to watch and learn.
The Little Britches Rodeo was started in 1952 at the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds and I don't know if this is true, but I always assumed it was named for the most famous book by author Ralph Moody, who wrote Little Britches about his childhood years spent in Littleton, Colorado.
According to the Little Britches Rodeo national website, the rodeo operated as a single, yearly event until 1961 when a national convention was held in Denver with representatives from numerous states where they organized a national youth rodeo association.
The National Little Britches Rodeo Association now oversees rodeos in 16 states where over 2000 children from the ages of 5 to 18, from 21 states, participate each year in 275 Little Britches rodeos. They compete for saddles, buckles, gift certificates, and even college scholarships. The rodeos are now organized so that even children on limited budgets can participate, which is what I find so appealing.
Many famous rodeo champions started their careers at the Little Britches Rodeos. Ty Murray, for instance, who won seven world all-around championships in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, got his start with the Little Britches Rodeos. Butch and Rope Myers, Kristie Peterson, Cody DeMoss and many other rodeo greats started with the Little Britches.
The National Little Britches Finals Rodeo takes place over six days in Pueblo, at the Colorado State Fairgrounds and generally involves over 700 competitors, 3000 rides and runs, and 30 championships. The Finals Rodeo also has a Royalty Pageant, rodeo clinics, nightly dances, and is just plain good old fashioned Western fun.
Over the past few weeks I've been watching the Little Britches Rodeo 2010 Finals on television. I particularly enjoyed the barrel racing events and the children replicating the riders of the Pony Express. The skill, determination and talent in these children never ceases to amaze me. If you have never been to a rodeo, the Little Britches Rodeos are a good place to start. For more information on competitions or how to volunteer or donate, take a look at their website.