By Ann Bleiker
For those in the First Frontier Circuit the start of the summer rodeo season is opening night of the COWTOWN RODEO, known as the "oldest weekly rodeo in the United States." The Cowtown Rodeo runs every Saturday night from May 28th to September 24, 2016.
WPRA barrel racer Jodi Mathews captured the opening night victory in a time of 17.40 seconds. Mathews of Middle Grove, N.Y., was ninth on the ground during the performance, but her seven-year old horse Fuel For Compromise "Dually" handled the ground like a champ.
"I was very excited to get the win," said Mathews. "Dually has such big strides that his runs can be deceiving. I knew he had three nice barrels but was surprised when I saw the time.
"The pen at Cowtown really allows him to stretch out and that is why I think he does so well there. I was worried about being ninth on the ground because the ground can get deep but he handled it well."
Mathews was atop the leaderboard following the 12 runs during the performance but would have to wait for 34 additional barrel racers to make their run in slack after the performance before she could collect her check. Her time would hold and she added $692 to her 2016 rodeo earnings.
Mathews bought Dually has a 3-year old from Kendal Owen and the duo has taken their time to learn and grow together.
PHOTO BY: Eva Scofield
"He had about 30-60 days on the barrels when I got him but he bucked me off during that first month I had him, so decided to take it slow with him," recalls Mathews, who is sponsored by ForeFront Equine, Crown Leather, Leanin Pole Arena, Moonbrook Farms, Equivibe and X Products. "So far things seem to be falling into place this year. I have changed a few things with my routine at home and before we run, so not sure if it is that or that he is maturing or a combination of it all but happy to be keeping barrels up."
Mathews has worked harder this year to have her horses in shape and ready for the rodeo season in the First Frontier Circuit.
"I long trot my horses two miles a day, so they are in much better shape this year," says Mathews. "My goals this year are to keep my horses healthy and to make the Circuit Finals."
Mathews splits her time caring for her horses and her 7-year old son, Kasen, who loves to be around the horses. He is her No. 1 fan and she says she can always hear him cheering for her from the stands.
The COWTOWN RODEO was started in 1929 by Howard Harris Sr., and his son Howard "Stoney" Harris Jr. Stoney held the first rodeo in Woodstown, N.J., in conjunction with the Salem County Fair. The rodeo was held annually during the County Fair until 1937. World War II caused the rodeo to be put on hold until 1955, when it became a weekly rodeo series. They received live national TV exposure in 1957 & 1958 and taped exposure nationwide in 1968 & 1969. The rodeo outgrew the original arena and in 1967 the present 4,000 seat arena was built.
Howard Grant Harris, the fourth generation and oldest son of Howard Jr., grew up at Cowtown. Grant was only one year old when the weekly rodeo started in 1955 and he and his family continue to run the rodeo today. In 2013, the Harris Family received the Lifetime Family Heritage Award from the WPRA.
For more information visit www.cowtownrodeo.com.