LOVINGTON, N.M. – The livestock industry has long been a way of life for many folks in southeastern New Mexico.
The beauty of the Plains is in the way hard-working people raise their animals, whether it’s to feed the world or to work the landscape the best way possible. There’s tender, loving care that goes into each beast, and respect comes with it.
That just might be the biggest reason residents have a love affair with the bucking horses and bulls that are highlighted annually during the Lea County Fair & Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7-Saturday, Aug. 10, at Jake McClure Arena.
“We’ve been very blessed to have a great relationship with our producer, Pete Carr,” said Greg Massey, the rodeo chairman for the Lea County Fair Board. “Pete comes in here every year and tries to make each rodeo better than the one before, and he’s got some of the best bucking horses and bulls in rodeo.”
That has been true for many years, but the 2013 version looks as though it’s taken a heap of steroids. Earlier this year, Carr acquired Classic Pro Rodeo, a company that’s been in business better than 20 years and has also featured some of the greatest animal athletes in the sport. Now Carr Pro Rodeo and Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo will bring a massive storm of bucking thunder to Lovington.
All told, Carr owns 31 animals that were selected to perform at the 2012 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. In all, he has owned three PRCA Bareback Horses of the Year: Real Deal in 2005, Big Tex in 2010 and MGM Deuces Night in 2012. Those are just the cream of a very talented crop that includes Dirty Jacket, the runner-up reserve world champion bareback horse, and River Boat Annie, the 2007 reserve world champion bareback horse.
For each of the four performances of Lea County’s rodeo, top-notch NFR bucking talent will be part of the equation. That’s something pretty special for rodeo fans in Lovington that only Carr provides.
“When you look down at the list of livestock, it’s just exceptional what we’ll have at our rodeo,” Massey said. “With Pete bringing Classic on board, that’s just going to make our rodeo and every other rodeo Pete does that much better.”
The contestants not only know that, but that’s one of the reasons they make sure Lovington is on their annual to-do list. For years, cowboys have chased good bucking stock all over the country. Throw in the fact that the Lea County Fair and Rodeo offers a large purse and is part of the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour, and there are significant factors contributing to the very best athletes in the game competing in Lovington every August.
Last year, two-time reigning world champion Kaycee Feild matched moves with another world champ in Real Deal. The combination was 89 points to win the rodeo and nearly $4,500 – that all came back in the long run when Feild claimed his second straight gold buckle with $276,850.
“That’s what I ride bucking horses for is to get on the rankest, baddest horses,” Feild said, acknowledging that Real Deal has quite a reputation, one that has him as part of the eliminator group of broncs at the NFR every December. “I can prove, not only to my friends but also to myself, that I can spur anything and that I can spur the bad ones.
“It’s definitely a confidence booster when you can get on a bad one and spur him every jump.”
True Lies, an NFR bronc, has guided cowboys to the winner’s circle two of the past three seasons. Last year it was veteran saddle bronc rider Travis Sheets, while Louie Brunson won the Lea County title in 2010. In between, two-time NFR horse Miss Congeniality helped Cody Angland to the top spot and also helped Alex Wright to a second-place finish in the two times she performed in Lovington.
This year, the chances for record-breaking scores have increased. Big Tex is now in bronc riding, and in the three times he performed in the late winter and early spring, he helped cowboys to event titles: Tyler Corrington won in San Antonio, Wade Sundell won the $50,000 round in Houston and Curtis Garton won the national title at the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City.
“We got to be with Pete last year after Deuces Night was named the bareback of the year, and we got to see how much pride he has in those great animals,” Massey said. “I think the cowboys see that, too, and it’s why they want to come to Lovington and get on his horses and his bulls.
“What Pete’s got now is pretty dang special.”