Bronco, Bulls and Mutton Bustin’ on Tap
By Wendy Carlson
Photos by Wendy Carlson
Dutchess County has a full slate of equestrian events this fall, but on September 16, Western aficionados will flock to Keane Stud in Amenia to watch barrel racing, bronco busting, and bull riding when the Hudson Valley Rodeo returns to town.
Now celebrating its third year, the charity fundraiser benefits the Amenia-Wassaic Community Organization (AWCO), which supports community services, arts and education, health, and conservation efforts and programs, including baseball leagues and summer camps.
The mission of the rodeo is two fold, says Kim Pothcast, marketing manager of the Silo Ridge Community Foundation, which powers the event. “First, we want to impact the local community by improving the lives of the families who live and work right here in Amenia and Wassaic, and secondly we want to create a unique experience for visitors who aren’t familiar with the area.”
So far, the rodeo has exceeded those goals. The event was sold-out the first two years, drawing more than 5,000 spectators last year alone and generating a new crop of rodeo devotees.
Among the newly-minted fans was a posse of young women at last year’s rodeo. Sporting cowboy hats and sipping cocktails out of boot-shaped mugs, they gushed over the competition from their perch in stands. More to the point, they gushed over the cowboys swaggering past them wearing fringed chaps with saucer-size belt buckles.
After attending their first rodeo in 2020 at Keane Stud, they were hooked. “We loved it so much we flew to Cheyenne, Wyoming to attend the world’s largest rodeo,” says Nicole Dematto from Pleasant Valley.
But you don’t have to go west to watch riders compete on a national level. The Hudson Valley Rodeo draws some of the best cowboys from the east and west who compete in eye-popping events such as bronco riding. In this competition, once out of the holding pen, the rider attempts to stay on the bucking horse for eight seconds. Whether he is thrown off, or stays in the saddle, the crowd goes wild.
Youngsters get to test their meddle in the “mutton bustin’” event in which they cling on to sheep for as long as they can, as the animals dash, jump, and buck in the arena.
Barrel racing is the “ladies event” and it’s all about speed. Three barrels are set up in a triangle inside of the arena and the rider must perform a cloverleaf pattern on horseback, looping around each of the three barrels without knocking any of them down. The fastest run wins.
Last year, barrel racing drew regional junior riders, including Sina Korito from New Milford, who competed on her horse “Six Shooter in My Pocket” and novice Lilly Andrusia of Goshen, who competed on her horse Bubbles. And local riders, including Jackie Torino-Gates from Pleasant Valley who has been barrel racing since she was four years old, were thrilled to have an opportunity to compete locally in the adult division.
Outside the arena, there are more than 20 local food vendors and stands devoted to western wear. Prior to the start of the competition at 3 pm there are live performances by local country music artists and activities such as learning how to lasso, meet-and-greet with real cowboys, and stick horse racing for kids. After the rodeo, the dust doesn’t settle until the evening when country music star Walker Hayes performs on stage. So grab a hat and saddle up.