Through its state and regional associations and its IGRA University education classes, the organization places education high on its list of important purposes. In addition to supporting honesty, fair play and good sportsmanship, participants can learn rodeo basics, starting with good body mechanics, learning how to ride and what is required to participate in its various events.

A love of animals is simply at the heart of the rodeo and new members learn how to respect and care for the animals that are an integral part of this extremely physical sport. IGRA members know that without well cared for horses, steers and goats that are part of the sanctioned rodeo events, the sport they love would cease to be. In a time when lots of people no longer live a daily lifestyle that includes these larger animals, IGRA members are an important part of passing along the knowledge and skills required to care for them.

But when it comes to bull riding, it’s the riders who often need protection from the bulls. And here is where rodeo bull rider clowns come into play. Back in the 1920s bull riding competition switched to using bad-tempered Brahma bulls and the role of the clown took on new importance. By waving things at a bull, throwing a hat, shouting or running away from an injured rider, the clown enables the rider to get out of the ring with as little injury as possible.

To protect a fallen rider, like fire fighters and police officers, these clowns race into danger, not away from it. Needless to say, this role isn’t for everyone, highlighting once again the wide variety of necessary rodeo roles in which people can participate. Talking about the role of rodeo bull riding clowns with Laura Scott, director for this year’s WGRF, she mentioned her friend Jerry Cunningham of Denver. He’s both a firefighter and a rodeo clown; someone she says is “honorably crazy” and, I suspect most of us would agree with that definition.


Pictured: Jerry Cunningham, rodeo bull rider clown

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