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For horse, rider
Rodeo emphasizes treating animals well

By JENNIFER BRETT
Photos by Johnny Crawford/AJC
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 07/24/05

After the old man died, developers swooped in and soon a horse named Kemp was out of a home. As the stable was razed to make way for another subdivision, a Cumming horse rescue group took Kemp in. About three years ago, Jason Holcombe adopted the handsome thoroughbred, and on Saturday, Kemp and Holcombe prepared to trot into the ring.

It was the first rodeo for horse and rider. He 's having a good time," said Holcombe, of Stone Mountain, as his four-legged friend pawed the dirt at the annual Southern Spurs Rodeo. Organizers said the weekend-long event, held at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, was expected to draw about 1,500.

The event is one of 20 rodeos on the International Gay Rodeo Association, which will have its finals in Dallas in November.

The rodeo places special emphasis on treating the animals well, said director Barbara Bugg. Fans keep them cool, and they're not worked any longer or harder than necessary. During calf-roping competitions, competitors release their lassos once they've roped the animals, and do not flip and hog-tie them as at some rodeos.

Alton Condra of Atlanta competes in the calf-roping on foot competition, where contestants are on the ground instead of on horseback. "I love it because I know it's not hurting the animal," he said.

Jackie Thompson of Washington also competes in calf-roping on foot, having retired from chute dogging, where contestants have a certain amount of time to wrestle a steer to the ground. The steers are released as soon as they're brought down. (Then again, they often win; Thompson related a harrowing tale involving a steer's horns, explaining her transition to the comparatively tame calf-roping.)

Both Condra and Thompson described the rodeo, part of the Georgia Gay Rodeo Association, as a fun and welcoming atmosphere. "It's kind of like going to a family reunion," Condra said. And, working with animals imparts skills that can be put to use in professional life, he said. "You learn patience," he said. "You can take that back to the workplace."

Other events included barrel racing, bronc riding, and the ultimate rodeo sport: bull riding.

The event raised money for two charities: CHRIS Kids, which works with abused or neglected children; and Jerusalem House, which works with homeless AIDS patients.

Included among the vendor and information booths was a photo display of mistreated horses rescued by the Horse Rescue, Relief and Retirement Fund (www.savethe horses.org). Founder Cheryl Flanagan shared rescue success stories, including that of the now-adopted Kemp. "Even the ones that can't be ridden, you just want somebody to fall in love with them," she said.

The Southern Spurs Rodeo began in 1999, said Bugg. There were 83 contestants this year, she said. "We all bond; we're like one big family," she said. "They want to win, but they want others to do well, too."

The rodeo ends today.

 

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