Ropin’ & ridin’ at Truckee Rodeo

Story by Tim Hauserman  ·  Photos by Larry Buranzon  ·



The Truckee Rodeo is celebrating its 40th year on Aug. 23 and 24 at the McIver Arena in Truckee. Rodeo developed in the Western United States as a chance for cowboys and cowgirls to show off the horsemanship and roping skills they developed while working with cattle. Later, it evolved into an athletic event and an entertainment spectacle.

While these days, you are more likely to see men and women around Tahoe riding a mountain bike then a horse, in the not too distant past our prime bike riding spots were where cattle grazed. For example, until World War II, cattle were being driven between Blackwood Canyon and Antone Meadows every summer.

The Truckee Rodeo will include all of the world-class rodeo events that one might expect from an event sanctioned by the California Cowboys Pro Rodeo Association: Team Roping, Calf Roping, Bareback Riding, Saddle Bronc Riding, Barrel Racing, Break Away Roping and Bull Riding.

If you have never seen a professional cowboy hanging on tight to a bucking animal, or a cowgirl swiftly maneuvering a horse around a barrel, it’s well worth the trip. One particularly interesting event this year is Team Penning, in which a three-person team on horseback tries to pen as many cows as they can into a small area.

In addition to the thrill of watching the pros, a small town rodeo also is about pageantry and community, and seeing your friends and neighbors becoming Rodeo Queens or riding on the Drill Team. It’s about having your little tykes try to hold on to a raging lamb as part of the Mutton Bustin competition, or figuring out how to get a pair of boxers on a calf for the Calf Dressing competition.

Last year’s Rodeo Queen, Lauren Huseby, spent the past year promoting the event and being the public face of the Rodeo.

“I’d only been riding for four months before I became Queen. I was taken under the wing of some great trainers who taught me how to complete the job and do it right,” she says.

After becoming the Truckee Rodeo Queen, she has traveled to other rodeos across California, not only to promote the Truckee Rodeo to potential visitors, but to bring ideas home to help make our local rodeo better. She also was trying to recruit queen candidates for this year’s Truckee Rodeo. The Queen competition is based on riding and rodeo experience, modeling skills and an interview. Finding girls that can meet all the requirements has been a challenge.

“Rodeo is a like a whole different animal,” Huseby says about her experience. “It was interesting to be a part of it. Everybody is a big family.” She will crown the new Queen and Junior Queen at this year’s rodeo.


The Truckee Donner Junior Horsemen Drill Team will perform on both days of the rodeo. The Drill Team is composed of local girls between 7- and 18-years-old who show off his or her skills by riding a series of challenging patterns in the arena. It’s all about teamwork and timing, and a lot of practice.

“We get all our horses glittered up and sparkled and ride a pattern to music,” says Truckee High student Shelby Brooks, who is in her fifth year riding with the Drill Team.

Her most important words of advice regarding the Drill Team: “We start 10 minutes before the rodeo. Get there early so you don’t miss us.”

What does Brooks like best about the rodeo? The incredible variety of beautiful animals on display, she says.

Another group of colorful riders you don’t want to miss are the Painted Ladies, who ride a fast-paced pattern around the arena while proudly displaying flags. And, of course, constant entertainment is provided at the event by the banter between the acrobatic clown and the hilarious announcer. For those interested in seeing the animals and finding out how they are treated, come back and take a look at the lifestock an hour before the rodeo, as part of the Chutes Walk.


While the main rodeo events are for the professionals, amateurs and kids can participate in the Mutton Bustin and Calf Dressing Competition. Mutton Busters are boys and girls between the ages of 4 and 8 years, who cannot weigh more than 50 pounds. The goal is to get on a lamb and see how long they can hang on.

The Calf Dressing competition involves groups of three people on foot, who attempt to hold on to a calf and dress it in a large pair of boxer shorts. The person who can successfully get the boxers on the calf the fastest is the winner, but since the calf is not really interested in wearing shorts, the joke is on those who are trying to do the dressing.

The rodeo in many ways is a chance to go back to a simpler time. When cowboys and cowgirls were an important part of the American West. When a man and an animal working together to accomplish a goal was a special thing to watch. The rodeo has spectacle, humor, thrills and a good dose of old-fashioned, small town fun.

Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the gate. Tickets are $8 for students with ID, and children 5 and younger are admitted free. VIP tickets also are available online and at the gate between $40 and $75. Tickets are on sale at Sears, Tahoe Donner Equestrian Center and Truckee Visitors Center. The event is held at the McIver Arena, next to the Regional Park on Brockway Road.


For more information, visit or call (530) 205-6275.


Friday, Aug. 22
11 a.m.-1 p.m. | Kids Day | Free
5 p.m. | Team Penning | Free ($15 dinner)

Saturday, Aug. 23
3 p.m. | Gates open
4 p.m. | Chutes Walk
4:50 p.m. | Truckee Donner Junior Horsemen Drill Team
5 p.m. | Rodeo starts
$10 advance | $12 gate

Sunday, Aug. 24
11 a.m. | Gates open
Noon | Chutes Walk
12:45 p.m. | Truckee Donner Junior Horsemen Drill Team
1 p.m. | Rodeo starts
$10 advance | $12 gate

Tim Hauserman
Tim Hauserman wrote the official guidebook to the Tahoe Rim Trail, as well as “Monsters in the Woods: Backpacking with Children” and the children’s book “Gertrude’s Tahoe Adventures in Time.” Most of the year he writes on a variety of topics, but you will find him in the winter teaching cross-country skiing and running the Strider Gliders program at Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area. He has lived in Tahoe since he was a wee lad and loves to be outdoors road and mountain biking, hiking, paddleboarding, kayaking and cross-country skiing.