Ryan Chartrand

Rodeo has been declared one of America’s oldest pastimes but for Ben Londo it is more than that. It is an addiction.

The construction management senior began his career at age 12 and was hooked after his first eight-second ride.

“I started riding bulls and that was kind of my event,” he said.

Londo now rides bareback and saddle bronc horses not only for the Cal Poly rodeo team but also in the professional arena. His professional career started about four years ago and has proven to be successful.

This year Londo is currently No. 4 in the bareback riding and No. 5 in the saddle bronc riding in the California circuit.

The college rodeo season was also a victorious because Londo was able to win the All-Around Cowboy award at the college finals. This was his second time in a row winning this award.

Being a professional rodeo cowboy is different than being a professional football player or baseball player. All Londo had to do to become a pro was a buy his way in.

Londo had to purchase his permit in order to compete in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). To be a card holder he had “prove himself” by winning $1,000, he said.

Now each year he buys his card and hits the rodeo road.

Rodeo is not always as glamorous as it sounds. It has long hours, does not always pay and can by dangerous.

“For a long time I could not ride a sick horse to water,” he said about being in a riding slump.

Londo has torn ligaments, broken his leg and has had his share of bruises and sore muscles. But he will not let these minor set backs detour him from his ultimate goal of winning a championship at the National Finals Rodeo.

Twice a month Londo receives what most cowboys consider a bible. In it is a complete listing of the rodeos for a specific time period and from this he is able to choose where he wants to go.

Once Londo is entered in a rodeo he has to pay a fee that will go into the prize-money pot. Entry fees can range from $100 to $500 depending on the size of the rodeo, he said.

The money gathered from entry fees plus money added by a rodeo committee is what is considered prize money, he said. The money is awarded to the top scores in each event and the cowboys are ranked based on how much money they have won.

Two judges determine a score that is out of 100 points if the rider is able to stay on eight seconds. The score is not based on the rider alone but also includes how the horse performed.

A good horse is between 18 to 24 points and a good rider falls into the same category, Londo said. The highest he has ever been scored is 84 points, which amounts to a decent ride, he said.

Londo competes in two different events both similar in technique. He uses a piece of equipment called a “riggin” to hold on in the bareback riding and a modified western saddle in the bronc riding. He has to use this equipment to stay on the horse while he spurs it.

“I have always just liked bronc riding,” he said. “It is hard to learn but even harder to forget.”

Londo is pulling double duty not only in the events he rides in but also where he competes. At times it can be hard to balance riding for both Cal Poly’s team and professionally.

“It makes it tough to go to a lot of pro rodeos,” Londo said.

The Cal Poly rodeo season starts in September and ends in June with the college finals; however, many college and professional rodeos occur on the same weekends.

One of the larger rodeos in California is known as the Cow Palace in San Francisco and on the same weekend is the Cal Poly Pomona rodeo, he said. One year he had to catch a flight so that he could ride in Cow Palace and Pomona.

Being at two rodeos on the same day is a rudimentary element of the profession. In one weekend Londo will compete in up to four rodeos.

Traveling often keeps Londo away from family but they understand because his dad, Ned, was a champion saddle bronc rider and Cal Poly alumni. Londo’s grandfather compete in rodeo.

For now Londo plans on continuing the family tradition by traveling down the rodeo road.

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