The recently completed Ute Stampede attracted a well-qualified field of contestants including Jack Hannum, supervisor of officials for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, and Suzzanne Fausett, one of Utah's top barrel racers and a member of the Womens Professional Rodeo Association.
Hannum, of Ogden, managed to participate in the Stampede's team roping and calf-roping events as well as making sure judges were in place at all sanctioned rodeos around the country. Although he is supervisor, Hannum doesn't get any partial treatment from the officials."It is the same as in any sport, the judges try to make sure the contest is fair," said Hannum. That's a process that is easier said than done, because there are only eight full-time judges on the PRCA roster. They get help, however, from some 125 reserve judges that fill in the gaps.
Unlike many sports, the judges are working from on-the-job experience, meaning they must be card-carrying members of the association, a status that must be earned as a contestant.
Hannum, a four-time participant in the national finals, has been active out of the arena, serving in various administrative capacities for the association since 1981. His activity began after he agreed to represent a group of cowboys before the association in 1981. Since then he has found a niche working both as a contestant and as an administrator.
Fausett and her horse, Black, have been riding the barrel racing circuit together for the past 10-years and have also earned a trip to the national finals. Fausett was ranked eighth going into last year's finals but wound up 10th when the dust settled.
Barrel racing is truly a team sport, Fausett said, where rider and horse form a working unit, totally dependent on each other for success. Though horse and rider spend hours each day together, there are times when things just don't go right.
"Working with a horse is like working with another distinct personality - some days the horse is down, just as people sometimes are down," says Fausett. "You (the rider) should be smart enough to know it is coming. You have to be able to feel it. For example, my horse gets stiff."
When that happens, a rider must work through the problem until the horse is once again relaxed and the two can work together.
Becoming a professional isn't easy. For the men, getting a "card" requires finding success on the circuit and earning some money. At present there are 6,000 full-fledged PRCA members and 3,000 hopefuls in the permit stage, trying to win the $2,500 in prize money needed to get an unrestricted card. Contestants interested in gaining a spot in the national finals may have to ride in as many as 150 rodeos to get the necessary points.
Women must earn $1,000 on the circuit to qualify for the association card - not an easy task because there are only 625 sanctioned rodeos of the thousands held each year, in which to earn the money. Also, many of the sanctioned events do not offer large purses, making it difficult to make progress even with a win.
Fausett said she is working hard to make the finals again this year and is currently 11th in the national standings. Only 15 will be invited to the national event. Fausett will have to ride in almost 90 rodeos in order to qualify.
Her effort in Nephi didn't help, as a five-second penalty tagged on to her ride for tipping a barrel dropped her out of contention for top money.
Hannum fared a little better. Working with Justin Hodson in the team roping event, his team scored a 9.3-second time to finish third. In calf roping, Hannum managed a 12.8-second time to take first place.