Giddy Up For Australia (And Possibly The World’s) First Ever Virtual Rodeo

virtual rodeo
Pixabay/Stephen Mowbray Photography

In our fight against COVID-19, we’re all having to sacrifice many of life’s small, medium and big pleasures. But you can rest assured that one thing will continue come hell, high water or pandemic: the Mount Isa Mines Rodeo. Except this year, it’s going online.

Touted as the biggest and richest in the Southern hemisphere, the normally three-day event set against the red dust of remote Queensland has been condensed into a single evening that’s being streamed live, for free. It’s the first time a rodeo has run virtually in Australia and, potentially, the world.

The circumstances have forced organisers to get creative about the event to make it work online, said Mount Isa Mines Rodeo CEO Natalie Flecker. She said the virtual rodeo was a new opportunity for riders and audiences alike.

“We wanted to give something back to the competitors when there’s nothing else happening because of the coronavirus,” she said. “Given that when we cancelled the physical event in march, everyone was in strict lockdown.”

How a Virtual Rodeo works

Instead of congregating in Mount Isa, participants will face off in their competitions from the comfort of their own arenas. And this opened up the rodeo to competitors from across Australia, New Zealand and even the U.S.

Competitions have been split up into two different kinds of events: pre-recorded and live timed.

For events like the saddle bronc (that’s one one where riders try hold onto a bucking horse with a saddle) or bareback (same, but minus the saddle), participants can submit a video of an attempt at a rodeo in the last two years.

But with live timed events like the barrel race (where riders have to navigate barrels on a horse), competitors have fifteen minutes to record and upload a video of their attempt. To ensure that attempts aren’t pre-recorded, participants are given a unique code at the beginning of their allotted time they must display to the camera during their attempt.

The virtual rodeos have already been submitted and were judged in secret last weekend, according to Ms Flecker. But the results won’t be released until the live event this Saturday.

Tune in this weekend

From 6PM AEST on Saturday August 8,  the virtual rodeo will be streamed on the Mt Isa Mines rodeo website, with announcers calling the events as if they’re live.

“We’re doing a live broadcast, using our normal announcers who will be watching the rides and giving the scores. The boys don’t know what the results are, so they’ll be getting it live with everyone said,” said Ms Flecker.

The stream will be interspersed with interviews with well-known riders and even live performances from country and rock performers like the legendary Lee Kernaghan.

Ms Flecker said that she hopes the silver lining of having to cancel the physical event will be introducing new people from around the world to the wonders of rodeo.

“It’s about reaching a global audience, about getting our event and Mount Isa as a destination out there. That’s why we’re offering it free of charge,” she said.

And, if it’s successful, it could be here to stay.

“We don’t know that this format is going to go away away. It may be something we continue doing going forward,” Ms Flecker said.