The Wild Bunch : ‘Weekend Warriors’ Round Up Fun, Bruises at Conejo Valley Rodeo
Tim Boyle describes himself as a “weekend warrior.” But rather than playing a hard game of basketball or football in his spare time, the 32-year-old Simi Valley resident likes to rope calves.
On Saturday at the annual Conejo Valley Days rodeo, Boyle and his brother Mike, in front of about 2,500 spectators, galloped full-tilt into the arena after a calf that was doing its best to avoid their lariats.
They lassoed it in 9.8 seconds.
“That isn’t a good time for us, but it’s a respectable time for this area,” Boyle said.
Boyle and his brother grew up on a Simi Valley ranch and although horses have been a way of life for both of them, they didn’t begin competing on the rodeo circuit until about five years ago.
“If you can’t afford it, don’t do it,” he said.
Boyle added that if the Conejo Valley Days rodeo wasn’t close to home, he and his brother would not bother to come each year because the prize money isn’t very big.
The top four winners in each of the seven events at the rodeo are rewarded, “but they don’t have good money,” Boyle said. He and his brother expect to take home about $400.
Top rodeo riders who compete full time in bareback riding, steer wrestling, bull riding and calf roping can make about $100,000, Boyle said. But most rodeo competitors have regular jobs and are “weekend warriors” who perform only in area rodeos, he added.
Boyle owns a welding shop in Simi
Valley and his brother is a wrangler who takes care of horses for movie companies.
While a professional rodeo competitor may hit 150 rodeos annually, Boyle has gone to only 17 rodeos in the past two years. Expenses such as entry fees, horse equipment and transportation add up, and several hundred dollars can be spent on just one weekend rodeo, Boyle said.
In addition to the financial demands that have increased over the years for rodeo riders, the competitiveness has also intensified, said Ron Warne, who has more than 30 years of experience.
Warne, a 48-year-old Moorpark resident, competed Saturday against Boyle and his brother in the team-roping competition. Warne and his partner, Billy Washington, lassoed their calf in 9.2 seconds.
“They’ve got it down to a real science. It used to be that cowboys would tie a calf in 15 to 20 seconds. Now they can do it in 7 or 8 seconds,” Warne said.
Warne, who owns a horse transportation business and who does part-time coaching of his own, attributed the change to better training. “They’ve got the opportunity to learn these skills at a younger age than the older generation.”
Like many rodeo competitors, Warne was exposed to horses at an early age. His family owned a ranch in Northern California, and when he started riding in rodeos at 16, that was not unusual among his peers.
Over the years he has broken several ribs and has had to have some knee operations. From 16 to 35, Warne rode “rough stock,” meaning bulls and bareback. At 35, when he was beginning to “slow down,” Warne decided to confine himself to calf roping and team roping.
Like the Boyles, Warne has been coming to the Conejo Valley Days rodeo for many years. According to Warne, the Thousand Oaks rodeo is unusual for its large and enthusiastic crowd.
“They always have a spectacular crowd at every performance. At some rodeos there isn’t that big a crowd. Here they really get into it,” he said.
Warne’s partner, 32-year-old Moorpark resident Billy Washington, began competing on the rodeo circuit about five years ago. Before that, he competed full time in karate tournaments, ranking in the top 10 in the U.S. for full-contact and point karate. Like the others, he is a weekend cowboy who works full time as a bodyguard in Hollywood.
Patting his horse “Gold Dust,” before his event, Washington explained that in calf roping, the horse does 70% to 80% of the work.
“You have to depend on him to do everything,” he said.
Washington advised those interested in joining the rodeo circuit to find excellent instructors to avoid learning bad habits. When he was starting out and inexperienced, he cut a finger off while competing in team roping, he said.
The appeal for him is the competition and the atmosphere. “It kind of takes you back in time,” Washington said. “I’ll probably stay in it until I get old or break a bone or something.”
The Conejo Valley Days rodeo rounds up today, with shows at 1 and 4 p.m. Events are bareback riding, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, team roping, women’s barrel racing, bull riding and calf roping.