Virden’s Cassidy Gardiner is all smiles after roping her calf in 4.2 seconds during the breakaway event at the Manitoba High School Rodeo Association’s Brandon Rodeo at the Keystone Centre on Sunday.
(CHARLES TWEED/BRANDON SUN)
The Manitoba High School Rodeo Association just can’t get no R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Kelly Millward, a director with the MHSRA, said many of the kids are forced to skip school to attend rodeo sporting events like the one hosted in Brandon this weekend at the Keystone Centre because teachers and schools won’t excuse students to attend rodeos.
"Many of the teachers don’t recognize it as a sport," Millward said. "The schools don’t recognize high shool rodeo and kids struggle to get out of school, which I don’t think is right."
While some high schools in Alberta and British Columbia have actually built curriculum around rodeo and offer full credit for rodeo programs, Manitoba remains in the dark age, according to Millward.
"It would be nice to have a program in Manitoba," Millward said. "But Manitoba is further behind than Alberta is when it comes to high school rodeo."
Some question the danger associated with the sport and whether children should be involved in a sport where injuries are common place. Millward, who was a bull rider in the past and has now been a bull fighter for close to two decades, concedes the sport has inherent dangers, but questions what sport doesn’t.
For him, the values and discipline learned in the sport and the potential for big scholarships to post-secondary schools in Canada and the United States means rodeo should be on more people’s radar. It’s also why his three children compete in the MHSRA’s rodeos.
"It gives the kids a good reason to go to school and stay involved," Millward said. "There are more scholarships that come through rodeo than people even know."
But one of his biggest challenges is still convincing schools to invest time in rodeo and give kids the opportunity to get involved in the sport.
"It’s hard for some of the teachers to understand, because they have never been involved in it, that the kids are having fun and earning scholarships," Millward said. "There are a lot of responsibilities too. These kids have to take care of their horses, be here on time, pay fees, travel on the road — it’s not an easy game for these kids."
Virden’s Cassidy Gardiner, 15, couldn’t imagine a life without rodeo, but she’s also had challenges getting excused from class, forcing her to skip classes to attend clinics and rodeos.
"Rodeo is what I love and I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else," Gardiner said. "It gives you the adrenaline rush and you just want to keep getting better at what you do."
Gardiner, who was named rookie of the year in the MHSRA, wishes she could get more academic credit for the time and sweat she dedicates to rodeo.
"We don’t get any credits for working our buts off rodeoing," Gardiner said. "(The teachers) should follow us around for the day. They don’t understand that it’s a lot of hard work."
For Gardiner, rodeo is more than a sport, it’s a passion. And a passion she intends to put all of herself into and get everything she can out of.
"I’m not sure what I want to do yet," she said. "But I’ve already looked at schools in Alberta where I can continue to rodeo and go to school."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 22, 2012