Student rodeo helps preserve LSUs agricultural roots

Olivia McClure  |  11/15/2014 10:57:34 PM

A horseback rider races around a barrel at the LSU Block and Bridle student rodeo on Nov. 14. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

Photo By: OLIVIA MCCLURE

A bull rider is flung into the air at the LSU Block and Bridle student rodeo on Nov. 14. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

Photo By: OLIVIA MCCLURE

Three LSU Block and Bridle student rodeo participants carry a goat toward the finish line in the goat chase contest. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

Photo By: OLIVIA MCCLURE

A young LSU Block and Bridle rodeo attendee pets a contestant’s horse. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

Photo By: OLIVIA MCCLURE

An LSU Block and Bridle rodeo participant tries to catch the calf he roped. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

Photo By: OLIVIA MCCLURE

A calf is roped by a horseback rider at the LSU Block and Bridle rodeo on Nov. 14. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

Photo By: OLIVIA MCCLURE

News Release Distributed 11/15/14

BATON ROUGE, La. – A certain dress code comes to mind at the mention of a rodeo: cowboy hats, blue jeans and western boots. But by the time Block and Bridle rodeo contestants were fastening newly-won buckles to their belts on Friday, Nov. 14, goats were wearing clothes, too.

It’s called the goat dress — one of several nontraditional events that took place alongside bull riding and barrel racing at the 77th annual student rodeo sponsored by the LSU College of Agriculture’s Block and Bridle Club.

“You literally dress a goat,” said Jamie Boudreaux, a member of the club. “You don’t have to have any experience, and it’s just fun. At the end of it, there’s a goat wearing a funny outfit.”

Rodeos are always a little wild.

But after sponsoring this event for the better part of century, LSU Block and Bridle members see no reason to change a winning formula. Preservation, in fact, is the goal.

The first Block and Bridle rodeo was in the late 1920s at what is now the Swine Palace, said Ashley Allemand, rodeo manager and animal science junior.

Back then, Baton Rouge was barely more than a dusty little cow town, and students built their own bucking chutes using wood and nails they borrowed from the State Lumber Company. It was such a popular event that Governor Huey P. Long attended one year.

Decades later, the rodeo is a “less and less dominant tradition,” Allemand said. “The rodeo used to be bigger at LSU. That’s why we started doing an open rodeo along with the student rodeo.”

The student rodeo, which is held at Parker Coliseum on the LSU campus, was open to all college students in Louisiana. Anyone can participate in the open rodeo, which starts at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15. General admission is $8.

Allemand, who grew up in Schriever, said her whole family rodeos. For them, learning to ride a horse doesn’t come long after learning to walk.

But fewer young people today participate in rodeos, said Boudreaux, an animal science and agricultural education senior from Donaldsonville. Most people are unfamiliar with animals and agriculture, she said, yet food production needs to increase to meet the demands of a growing world population.

“Livestock needs to be more accepted by the general public as not just companions,” Boudreaux said. “[The rodeo] is a fun way to expose them to livestock even though they’re not production animals.”

Bull riding is one of the biggest rodeo attractions. Of the 100 or so students that usually participate in the Block and Bridle rodeo, Allemand estimates 40 of them come to ride a bull.

“It’s fun to watch, and it gives people an opportunity to do something they’ve never done before,” said Morgan Richard, an animal science junior from Elton.

Although it has its risks, bull riding is one of the events students can enter without rodeo experience. Other events require preparation.

“You have to condition horses for a rodeo,” said Nikhol Kelley, an animal science senior from Central. “You can’t just take them out of the pasture.”

Participants must provide their own horse if one is required for their event. Caring for a horse and training for a rodeo are big commitments — but well worth the effort.

“Most rodeo events are independent,” Allemand said. “It’s different from team sports. The harder you work, it pays off.”

Block and Bridle members also believe strongly in giving back to the community. Peyton Beattie, agricultural education junior from Houma, said a percentage of rodeo proceeds is given to Brave Heart Children in Need. The club also hosted a service event benefiting Cancer Services of Baton Rouge on Nov. 15.

Olivia McClure

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