For Victoria rodeo enthusiasts it's in the blood
Six months ago, 13-year-old Landon Castillo was riding a steer for the first time and getting ready to compete in a rodeo.
On Saturday, his work paid off when he finished second in the junior steer-riding competition at the Victoria Juneteenth Rodeo held at the Horseman Club Arena at Riverside Park.
But like many of the participants at the event, the rodeo was a family affair and what better way to spend the evening before Father's Day than at a rodeo with parents that introduced them to the sport.
"My dad," said Landon about his start in rodeo. "He's been in the rodeo business my whole life."
Landon learned all about the rodeo from his 52-year-old father, Robert Castillo, who participated in bull and bronc riding when he was younger. At the Juneteenth rodeo, Robert participated in the calf roping event.
Robert said that although a child may show interest in participating in rodeo events, unlike other sports, parents must wait for aspiring bull riders to start maturing before they can physically take the first step.
In Landon's case, it started last October when he was 12 years old.
"From there, you should know where you are and where you should progress," Robert said. "If they've got the want and the will, they can do it."
Young riders must overcome the fear and apprehension that comes when they first get on a steer. After all, the riders are in a sport with dangerous and unpredictable animals.
But for Landon, the rush that comes riding a steer outweighs the fear of injury.
"It's kind of scary at first, and then you get over it," Landon said. "It's fun."
Although his mother marvels at the progress Landon has made, 43-year-old Melissa Castillo admits there is some apprehension that comes when she watches her son ride a steer.
"You're at the edge of your seats at all times," Melissa said.
Robert admits that at first he was a little worried his son would get injured.
One of the basics is learning when to let go of the rope and how to fall off the animal without getting hurt.
"You learn to let go when the whistle's blown and you wait until the cull or the steer is in position for you to get off," Robert said.
The lesson came in handy on Saturday when Landon had a sore right hand that was iced after his ride. Sometimes, tensing the body up and holding on to a steer can lead to more serious injury.
Like the Castillo's, Joshua Barnes is a lifelong rodeo enthusiast.
The 28-year-old Memorial alum spent a lot of time on his grandfather's ranch, leading to a natural transition to competing in rodeos.
"I've lived in the country my whole life," Barnes said. "That's how I got started really. We had nothing else to do except ride the bulls and mess with the cattle out there."
Barnes went through a similar learning curve as a young rider that Landon currently finds himself in.
"Let the bull do the job," Barnes said. "Open up your hands and the rope will come out naturally."
Thus far, Barnes has been lucky to avoid harm in rodeo competition, with the exception of a leg injury 10 years ago.
Like most of the riders at the Horseman's Club, Barnes said the reward is worth the risk.
"It's got to be the love for the sport," Barnes said. "If you didn't have the love for the sport, then it wouldn't be a rodeo at all."
The current incarnation of the Juneteenth Rodeo is in its third year, thanks to a decision by rodeo organizer Moses Moore.
"The older cowboys faded away so I took it upon myself to get it back going again," Moore said.
This year, the rodeo was scaled back from a two-day event to one day.
Moore said that putting on the event takes about 90 days, as he has to do the job of five people during that time.
Although it makes for a long couple of days, Moore didn't expect to rest long. He talked about attending the Annual Fathers Day-Juneteenth Rodeo in Egypt, Texas, the day after the rodeo in Victoria.
"We have to figure out how we can do it better next year than this year," Moore said.
Moore said the work is worth it when he sees the next generation of riders walking around the grounds during the event.
"Take a look at some of the 8-year-old steer riders tonight," Moore said. "Later, they're probably going to be famous bull riders."