This season marks the 81st year of the San Benito County Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo. This old-time competition is held just 9 miles outside of Hollister at Bolado Park. For three days, events are held on what was once a Mexican Land Grant. Here visitors have a chance to time travel; going back to early San Benito, a county still considered “vaquero country” to Western aficionados. Despite its proximity to San Jose, Monterey and San Francisco, this famous event captures the unique skills used in pastoral California.
Friends and neighbors put their work aside and cattlemen and women come down from the golden hills to show off their technique. Aside from the rough stock events, only residents can compete in the show. This year on June 27th through 29th, about 350 local contestants will be parading in front of the spacious grandstands for the popular “Grand Entry”. For more specific information, you can go to the new Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo website.
Home of the famous Quarter Horse Doc Bar, San Benito County is well-known for producing genuine working cow horses and top-notch riders. One event unique to the Saddle Horse Show is the Figure-Eight Roping. Riders rope the steer’s horns with the first loop and manage to catch his two front feet with another loop (making a figure eight). Will James coined this difficult catch “the San Benito Toss”.
The classic rodeo activities always create a few wild and wooly moments. Youngsters muster up their courage and clamber on unsuspecting sheep in the “Mutton Busting”. Friends and family put their relationships to a test in the team penning competition. This year California Cowboy Professional Rodeo Association (CCPRA) riders will perform in the rough stock, bronc and bull riding events. The Wild Cow Milking Contest and the Wild Horse Race are both rough and tumble events that get you to the edge of your seat. Or you can stroll among the park’s massive oaks and wander into the charming Saddle Horse Show Museum, food venues and trade items.
Started in 1929 by local ranchers, many of the original families still own box seats. Rebecca Wolf, one of the Saddle Horse Show directors grew up in the county and remembers it fondly. She said, “When we were kids, we all got out of school to go to the show. That’s how important the event was to the community!” Wolf looks forward to catching up with old friends at the Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo. Like the great hosts of early rodeos and fandangos, Wolf is quick to mention that everyone; old-timers and newcomers alike, are all welcome.