Loading aggressive animals into chutes for the roughstock rodeo events is no easy task, but Kirsten Vold is always front and center.
“I help load the horses and I’ll help with the bulls — but, the guys really need help before asking me,” she laughs.
Vold, Pueblo, Colo., is the owner of Harry Vold Rodeo Company, a stock contractor that has supplied animals for the Dodge City Roundup since the late ’70s. Vold assumed ownership of the company in March when her father and the company’s creator, Harry Vold, died at the age of 93. But, the legacy he left behind lives on.
“Harry Vold was known as the Duke of the Chutes,” said R.C. “Doc” Trotter, M.D., and president of the Dodge City Roundup for the past 15 years. He knew Harry well, having worked with him several years running and is quick to tout Harry’s myriad accomplishments including, having had stock at every National Finals Rodeo (NFR) and being named stock contractor of the year by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association 11 times.
Ensuring quality stock is critical to the success of any rodeo because the contestants decide whether to attend based on two things: payout and the quality of the animals, said Trotter. Riders who’ve paid entrance fees for a rodeo have the option to “turn out,” or cancel, and they often do so when they don’t like the animal that was drawn for them. Half of a rider’s score is based on the stock, so it’s imperative that rodeos offer animals that make it worth the rider’s time and money to attend the competition.
“No matter how much money you put up, contestants won’t show if you have bad animals,” Trotter said. “Vold has always given us a good product.”
Vold’s consistency has helped forge the Dodge City Roundup into one of the most lucrative, competitive and prestigious rodeos on the circuit. She brings the highest-performing bucking horses from her 200-head herd, but uses subcontractors to provide the additional stock necessary for the entire rodeo. In total, around 450 animals were supplied to this year’s Roundup.
Scott Pickens, Manager and Livestock Supervisor for 4L & Diamond S Rodeo Company, Weatherford, Texas, is one of Vold’s subcontractors. In his 10th consecutive year at the Roundup, Pickens ensures that he too supplies only the best stock.
“At a rodeo this size with the caliber of athletes it attracts, they are expecting the best,” he said. This year he supplied 32 bucking bulls, four of which were at last year’s NFR: Girl Money, House of Pain, Little Turbo and Juicy Box.
One of his top priorities is ensuring the bulls are healthy and safe. Just like people, each bull has its own personality and mentality, he said. Some are able to compete more often than others and age is always a factor—Pickens takes these things into consideration when choosing bulls for each event while the others are left to pasture.
When transporting the animals, Pickens gives them one hour of rest for every hour traveled so they can eat and drink. This practice not only ensures they are at peak ability for the rodeo, it maintains the animals’ health and well-being.
“I manage a team,” he said. Because the animals are athletes, they do sustain injuries, but they aren’t life-threatening as many believe. When they do, they are given the proper rest and care necessary before returning to the next event. The value of the bulls in attendance at the Roundup ranges from $50,000 to $100,000.
Likewise, Vold’s bucking horses range in value from $7,500 to $75,000, but her interest in this business isn’t strictly monetary — she does it because she loves animals (especially Lilly, her dachshund-blue heeler mix).
“It’s a matter of building a relationship with the animals — they come to you, recognize you. It’s gratifying in many different ways.”