It's not unusual for horses to look their best for a day at the rodeo. But goats? That's another story -- one spectators can watch unfold this weekend at the 31st annual Caliente Team Penning.
Not quite a full rodeo (it focuses strictly on horsemanship events), Caliente Team Penning is a full-on fundraiser. All the proceeds go directly to the Caliente Educational Foundation, which provides local schools with supplies and awards thousands of dollars in scholarships each year.
"It's the biggest fundraiser we have," said Luree Peet, president of the Caliente Educational Foundation. "We have two fundraisers a year, but team penning is our primary source of income; we wouldn't be able to function without it."
Caliente Team Penning features three primary competitive events: team sorting, in which pairs of mounted riders sort numbered cows out of the herd in numerical order; team penning, where teams of three must separate three cattle from the herd and into a pen at the opposite end of the arena; and barrel racing.
Signups take place through the day of the event, and nearly anyone with a horse, the $30 entry-fee ($25 if you sign up in advance), and the courage to try is more than welcome to compete. There are junior events for children age 16 and under, including team penning and barrel racing, where competitors vie for a bright, shiny belt buckle.
"In the junior competitions, we give belt buckles to the first-place winners instead of cash," said Peet. "It's more fun for a kid to get a buckle. Money comes and goes, but they'll have that buckle forever, and they'll always be proud of it."
And then there are the goats. Not all children come from ranching families or own their own horses, so last year Peet and other coordinators added two events anyone can try: goat dressing and goat-ribbon jerking. The ribbon-jerking is just exactly what it sounds like: Children of walking age and up (the cut-off is 16) are let loose into the arena to see who can manage to yank a ribbon off a goat's tail in the least amount of time.
Dressing a goat is slightly more complicated -- teams of two must work together to catch a goat and wrangle it into a shirt; not exactly an essential skill for a working ranch hand, but it certainly makes for a good show.
"We had more kids enter the goat-ribbon jerking last year," said Peet. "All you have to do for that one is run up and grab the ribbon, which can be easy or hard, depending on the goat. For the goat dressing the kids do have to be a little bit bigger, but most of them get right in there and do it; it's really cute to watch."
In addition to rooting for your favorite penning team, junior barrel racer or fashionably defiant goat, there is a carnival from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. In addition, there will be vendors, a barbecue dinner ($10 a plate), and, on Saturday, a post-competition dance that lasts until midnight.
"Just anybody can have a good time here," Peet said. "It's fun watching the events and everybody interact -- the cowboys are always joking around with each other. It's also an excuse to get out of the city for a little while and see what the country life is like. It's a beautiful drive too, so long as you take your time and watch out for the cows!"