Calf ropers named State champions

Justin Martin of Pelzer and teammate Lee Ford of Pendleton recently won the S. C. High School Rodeo Team Roping Championship in competition held at the T. Ed Garrison Arena in Clemson.

In addition to being named state champions, each will receive a saddle, buckle and set of spurs for their effort.

They are also eligible to compete in a regional shoot out position in the United States Team Roping Championship (USTRC) professional league championship to be held July 11-14 in Lexington, Kentucky.

As National qualifiers, Martin and Ford are also eligible to participate in the American Quarter Horse Youth Association World Championship Aug. 2-10 in Fort Worth Texas.

The win also earned them a position at the National High School Rodeo Association competition in Farmington, New Mexico in July.

At present they are planning to make the 1,800 mile drive (one way) to compete in New Mexico, according to Justin’s mom, Cathy Martin.

They also plan to compete in the American Quarter Horse Youth Association Youth World Show in Ft. Worth Texas, after competing in New Mexico.

“They have done quite a bit,” Mrs. Martin said.

Both teens qualified for last year’s  International youth rodeo finals held in Shawnee, Oklahoma.

They also qualified for the 2001 High School final team roping championship held in Springfield, Illinois, and for the National USTRC team roping championship in Oct. 2001, where they won $4,000.

At that competition, they were competing with professional league teams, and earned a top twenty finish, placing 17th out of 366 teams,

In rodeo competitions, calf roping is a timed event in which a roper and horse work together to immobilize a calf.

The cowboy nods to let the calf out of a pen. The trained horse then chases it and the rope is placed around the neck. The cowboy dismounts, runs down the rope, throws the calf to the ground and ties three of the calf’s legs together. The calf must remain on the ground for six seconds.

 An average time, according to Justin, is 12-13 seconds. Justin said his best time is 10 seconds.

 “It depends on how good you draw,” Martin said. “There are usually two or three that will kick or are heavy.”

The calfves weigh in at 180 to 230 or 240 pounds each, Martin said.

In team roping, a team of two, a header and heeler, rope a longhorn steer.

The header ropes the head and turns left while the heeler comes from behind with a correct loop to form a trap in front of the back two feet. “You then tighten the ropes and stretch them out,” Martin said.

“They did this out west when they had a cow that was too big to rope and tie down for branding. They would stretch him out and put the brand on,” Martin said,.

 An average time for the event is about 8 to 9 seconds and the duo have had some six second runs, according to Martin. His best time is 5.4 seconds.

The pair have competed as a team for about three years and practice twice a week at a Pendleton farm owned by Dr. Poag Reid.

Calf roping is practiced three to  four days each week at Huntington Farms in Fork Shoals. Huntington Farms is owned by professional calf roper Hunt Garren.

“They have worked really hard with their horses,” Cathy said.

Justin has always had horses and has been riding since he was 12 years old, according to his mother.

He has two horses, Hurst Bo Acres and Sugar Bo Bridges. Sugar has been named “Horse of the Year” by AQHA through the South Carolina High School Rodeo Association for two years running.

Lee’s horse is named Bids Bodacious Babe. All three horses are registered with the American Quarter Horse Association.

Justin is also the reserve champion calf roper, placing second at the state competition at Garrison Arena. He has been re-elected to serve as president of the S. C. High School Rodeo Association and is running for the office of Vice-President of the National High School Rodeo Association. He will be campaigning for the office while in New Mexico, with voting coming at the end of the competition.

As a team, they usually compete about 20 weekends of the year in high school competitions held all over the state.

High School Rodeo participants earn points at each event and the top contenders are then eligible to participate in the state finals. Competitiors can also earn scholarships.

Participation is also academic based.  Participants have to keep their grades up and are required to show report cards during the year.

During competitions, they must wear full rodeo attire including long sleeve shirts, jeans, boots and hats.

They can be also disqualified for misbehavior and must be on time and responsible, according to Mrs. Martin.

The High School Rodeo Association encourages members to excel in leadership, responsibility, dedication and commitment.

Participation in service learning projects, such as visiting cancer patients at the Children’s Hospital, are also encouraged.

The boys recently did a demonstration on calf roping and  brought their horses with them for patients to visit with.

They have also participated in events to raise funds for the Connie Maxwell Children’s Home and Generations Group Home.

Justin, 17, is the son of Paul and Cathy Martin of Pelzer. He is a senior at Palmetto High School.

Lee, 16, is the son of Danny and Debra Ford of Pendleton and is a junior at Pendleton High.



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