Rodeo Kids

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Rodeo Kids
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Utah Youth Rodeo at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden, Utah on Tues. Oct. 15, 2014. The Utah Youth Rodeo Association is thriving at a time when participation in other youth rodeos is seeing a decline. Photo by Kim Raff

Rodeo Kids
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Brothers Ridge Rinderknecht, 5, front, Rusty Rinderknect, 11, middle, and Jager Rinderknecht,13, practice in the parking lot before competing in Utah Youth Rodeo at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden, Utah on Tues. Oct. 14, 2014. The Utah Youth Rodeo Association is thriving at a time when participation in other youth rodeos is seeing a decline. Photo by Kim Raff

Rodeo Kids
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Utah Youth Rodeo at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden, Utah on Tues. Oct. 15, 2014. The Utah Youth Rodeo Association is thriving at a time when participation in other youth rodeos is seeing a decline. Photo by Kim Raff

Rodeo Kids
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Madey Rees, 9, rides in the the warm up area before competition starts in the Utah Youth Rodeo at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden, Utah on Tues. Oct. 14, 2014. The Utah Youth Rodeo Association is thriving at a time when participation in other youth rodeos is seeing a decline. Photo by Kim Raff

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Kooper Porter, 3, practices roping in the parking lot before competing in the Dummy Roping event at the Utah Youth Rodeo at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden, Utah on Tues. Oct. 14, 2014. The Utah Youth Rodeo Association is thriving at a time when participation in other youth rodeos is seeing a decline. Photo by Kim Raff

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Siblings Dustie Warr, 12, and Kanyon Warr, 6, back boy, ride on a horse together in the parking lot before competition starts at the Utah Youth Rodeo at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden, Utah on Tues. Oct. 14, 2014. The Utah Youth Rodeo Association is thriving at a time when participation in other youth rodeos is seeing a decline. Photo by Kim Raff

Rodeo Kids
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Utah Youth Rodeo at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden, Utah on Tues. Oct. 15, 2014. The Utah Youth Rodeo Association is thriving at a time when participation in other youth rodeos is seeing a decline. Photo by Kim Raff

Rodeo Kids
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Utah Youth Rodeo participants ride their horses in the warmup area before the evenings events begin at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden, Utah on Tues. Oct. 14, 2014. The Utah Youth Rodeo Association is thriving at a time when participation in other youth rodeos is seeing a decline. Photo by Kim Raff

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Utah Youth Rodeo participant Seth Montgomery, 12, rides in the warm up area before participating in the evening's events at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden, Utah on Tues. Oct. 14, 2014. The Utah Youth Rodeo Association is thriving at a time when participation in other youth rodeos is seeing a decline. Photo by Kim Raff

Rodeo Kids
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Utah Youth Rodeo at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden, Utah on Tues. Oct. 15, 2014. The Utah Youth Rodeo Association is thriving at a time when participation in other youth rodeos is seeing a decline. Photo by Kim Raff

Rodeo Kids
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Utah Youth Rodeo participants ride in the warmup area at dusk during the youth rodeo competition at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden, Utah on Tues. Oct. 14, 2014. The Utah Youth Rodeo Association is thriving at a time when participation in other youth rodeos is seeing a decline. Photo by Kim Raff

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Ridge Stark, 4, waits for his turn in the dummy roping event during the Utah Youth Rodeo at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden, Utah on Tues. Oct. 14, 2014. The Utah Youth Rodeo Association is thriving at a time when participation in other youth rodeos is seeing a decline. Photo by Kim Raff

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River Richarson, 8, stands in the pit while he receives help putting on his chaps before competing in the calf riding event during the Utah Youth Rodeo at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden, Utah on Tues. Oct. 14, 2014. The Utah Youth Rodeo Association is thriving at a time when participation in other youth rodeos is seeing a decline. Photo by Kim Raff

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Kade Madsen, 9, middle, prepares to ride a mini bull during the Utah Youth Rodeo competition at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden, Utah on Tues. Oct. 14, 2014. Madsen and his siblings are dedicated to the youth league, spending countless hours practicing and attending rodeos. Madsen is far younger than all of the other mini bull participants and competes in the 12-14 age group for steer riding. The Utah Youth Rodeo Association is thriving at a time when participation in other youth rodeos is seeing a decline. Photo by Kim Raff

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Austen Hamblin Age: 8 Event: calf riding Utah Youth Rodeo at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden, Utah on Tues. Oct. 14, 2014. The Utah Youth Rodeo Association is thriving at a time when participation in other youth rodeos is seeing a decline. Photo by Kim Raff

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Ellie Christensen Age: 12 Events: breakaway, barrels, poles, goat tie, ribbon roping Utah Youth Rodeo at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden, Utah on Tues. Oct. 14, 2014. The Utah Youth Rodeo Association is thriving at a time when participation in other youth rodeos is seeing a decline. Photo by Kim Raff

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River Richarson Age: 8 Event: calf riding Utah Youth Rodeo at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden, Utah on Tues. Oct. 14, 2014. The Utah Youth Rodeo Association is thriving at a time when participation in other youth rodeos is seeing a decline. Photo by Kim Raff

Rodeo Kids

Words and photos: Kim Raff

You feel as though you’ve walked on to the set of a western film when entering the parking lot of the Golden Spike Arena in Ogden Utah as participants ready themselves for the evening’s Utah Youth Rodeo Association’s youth rodeo. Kids, ages 4-18, decked out in flashy belt buckles, bedazzled flannel shirts and neck turning cowboy boots are readying themselves to compete in events from mutton bustin, goat roping to bull bucking. The families that gather monthly for the UYRA rodeo are what’s left of disappearing way of life as endless miles of farmlands are plowed under and subdivision spring up along the country side, inevitable homes for the next generation that in some cases have hung up their tack in exchange for a computer and cubicle.

Many events in the rodeo are required skills for living on a working farm. Being able to have solid command of a horse and weave it through a series of poles is a valuable skill to have as would being able to stay atop a bucking mustang you’re trying to break. Unlike most sports created to entertain, rodeo makes a sport out of necessity with events having deep roots in the day in and day out of farm life.

Rural Utah and the mountain west are steeped in cowboy culture and it’s shrinking inhabitants work to pass these traditions down to the next generation

Rural Utah and the mountain west are steeped in cowboy culture and it’s shrinking inhabitants work to pass these traditions down to the next generation through outlets such as the Utah Youth Rodeo Association. At a time where entertainment can be found in the palm of your hand that’s a lofty goal. Grit and dedication are a must as even events like goat roping not only requires you to perfect the skill of roping a goat but also caring for and raising goats.

Although the UYRA is thriving today what does that mean for tomorrow? Will we still need these skills in the future or will it all become a novelty? These are the themes running through my head as I witness a miniature 3-year-old cowboy climb a top a sheep twice his size, knuckles white and hanging on for dear life as it shoots across the arena.

These photographs are from one evening spent with the UYRA at the Golden Spike Arena in Ogden, Utah.

See more of Kim Raff’s work at: kimraff.com

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Jonas Larsson

Jonas Larsson is an award winning Creative Director, but he also works as a travel writer. Jonas loves to hike national parks and go on adventures. But if there is a dive bar close, you will most certainly find him there.