GLEN ROSE, TEXAS — Bucking broncos, eight-second rides and horses racing around barrels are commonplace at rodeos. During the 2010 Professional Armed Forces Rodeo Association World Finals, however, another element was involved.
A Hinesville family competed alongside more than 40 service members, retirees, honorably discharged veterans and dependents at the finals in the Somerville County Expo Center.
Army Reserve Chief Warrant Officer 3 Gary Arnold and his two daughters, Courtney and Ashley, of Hinesville, participated in various rodeo events.
The 15 PAFRA members with the highest scores at the end of the season in their respective event were eligible to compete in the world finals, which ranged from team roping to chute dogging.
"I started in rodeo in 2004. After about six months it came to a halt for a one- year tour in Iraq. I team roped, calf roped and chute dogged," said Gary Arnold, a 1980 graduate of Bradwell Institute.
"My involvement with rodeo is barrel racing. This weekend I am riding Hank, our gray horse that we have had since we began riding horses nine years ago," Courtney Arnold said.
"In rodeo, I am an all-around cowgirl. Where women usually compete in barrel racing, I team rope (head and heal), calf rope, breakaway, barrels and all five-speed events," Ashley Arnold said.
Every service member, retiree, military dependent, Defense Department civilian or veteran who was honorably discharged is eligible to join PAFRA.
"I am currently in the Georgia Army National Guard with 30 years and climbing. I am the senior automotive maintenance technician with Company B, 348th Brigade Support Battalion in Hinesville," Gary Arnold said.
Each competitor logs countless hours practicing and participating in rodeos around the world to qualify for the world finals.
"The training involved in barrel racing requires hard work and exercising the horses almost every day to keep them in shape. I have to go through practicing every day so I don’t have to worry about my horse or messing up the barrel pattern whenever we do get to a rodeo," Courtney Arnold said.
"On a normal routine of practicing, we ride four to five days a week, depending on when our next show is. Usually we try and just ride on trails outside of the arena to help keep the horses from getting bored of doing their job," Ashley Arnold. "We try not to ride the horses the day before and the day after a competition."
Many of the PAFRA cowboys and cowgirls have been involved with rodeos most of their lives.
"I hadn’t owned or ridden a horse in 25 years. But when I got activated and sent to Bosnia for a six month rotation, I promised my girls that I would buy them a horse on my return. That’s what started the ball bouncing," Gary said.
"Dad was a huge help in getting our family involved in the rodeo world. I started off at little hometown shows being ecstatic to just place 10th out of 10. But after practice, hard work and dedication, I have won two saddles, 16 buckles, seven halters, plus numerous trophies and ribbons over the 10 years I have been competing," Ashley Arnold said.
"My dad and sister got me involved in riding. When he got back from Bosnia, we took riding lessons at a local stable. Since then I have won four state trophies, one belt buckle and over 200 ribbons in nine years of riding. Right now, I am in the lead for a barrel racing saddle at a local rodeo," Courtney Arnold said.