The Poly Royal rodeo has drawn a crowd for the past 75 years. Though it has changed over time, it has remained an annual tradition. This year, it is back during Open House weekend on April 16-18.
“Think about if you’re driving down the highway at 70 mph and you throw the steering wheel out the window,” rodeo team president and biology sophomore Chase Bowen said describing how he feels while partaking in the rodeo.
Bowen will compete in the “bareback” competition at Poly Royal this year. Bareback consists of a random draw of horses, followed by the rider wedging their hand into a belt-type object and riding the horse, Bowen said.
“You’re almost at the mercy of the horse,” he said.
Poly Royal has always had a strong history. It used to have a line going as far back as Frank’s Hot Dogs, and people were even turned away.
“Cal Poly kind of started college rodeo,” Cal Poly rodeo head coach Ben Londo said. “This is part of what makes Cal Poly what it is.”
The Cal Poly rodeo team has been working on reminding the school of its roots and how well the rodeo team is ranked nationally.
“That’s actually really impressive and the school should be more involved. I think people would think it’s cool, half the people that go here don’t even know about us,“ agricultural communication junior Giuliana Torlai said.
Torlai wakes up at 6 a.m. to feed and ride her horses, then goes to class from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Afterward, she goes back to her horses to clean and feed them until 5 p.m., and then goes home to start her homework.
Growing up around rodeo brands kids to be hard workers, Londo said.
Four generations of his family were involved in rodeo, and Londo had been a part of Cal Poly’s team before he graduated. He couldn’t wait to take the opportunity to coach. He encouraged students from any background to get involved.
“I didn’t do high school rodeo, but I always had horses,” Torlai said.
Students succeed and excel at rodeo even without having previous experience, Torlai said. Rodeo creates strong friendships, while also adding in some healthy competition.
“You can be competitive with your friends, but still be happy that they did better than you,” Torlai said.
The team goes to competitions frequently and never gets tired of them.
The adrenaline rush from bareback is insane; it never goes away, Bowen said.
“It’s kind of like tying yourself to a thousand-pound brick and throwing it off into the ocean,” Bowen said.
Londo found his rush from watching his students at the rodeo even more so than competing himself.
“I almost get more amped up and nervous and apprehensive watching my students now, more than I ever did,” Londo said. “I didn’t expect that.”
Rodeo is a huge part of Londo’s life and life at Cal Poly, he said. The Western way of life should not be forgotten.
“When you look at the history of rodeo and you go all the way back to the 1800s, it really was the first sport of America, the western way of life,” Bowen said.
To be a part of something that has been shared through so many generations is pretty unique, he said. And the camaraderie shared between the rodeo world is unlike anything he’s ever experienced.
“I played a lot of sports, but there was never anyone like the people in rodeo who would always extend what they had to offer to anyone,” Bowen said.
Rodeo is a good way to promote and protect Cal Poly’s Learn By Doing approach and strong agricultural background, Londo said.
“Rodeo is a large part of what makes America, America,” Londo said.