Cowboys in midst of California run

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., — It doesn't take long to understand why PRCA cowboys talk favorably about the spring California run. More than 10 ProRodeos are held outdoors in April and May in California. Some are Heartland ProRodeo Series rodeos in smaller communities, while others are big rodeos near metropolitan areas.

Cowboys, especially from the West and Midwest, delight in an opportunity to escape snow, mud and rain for sunshine and warmer temperatures.

The competition is intense on the California run, but the pursuit for prize money and buckles is mixed with time to slow down and enjoy the surroundings. To get the picture, imagine baseball games, golf courses, amusement parks, Redwood trees, wineries, sunscreen and Beach Boys music.

Los Alamos, Calif., tie-down roper Casey Branquinho understands the appeal of California in the springtime.

"As far as the ranching industry, we could always use a little more rain, but the weather is gorgeous and the grass is green and high. It's just a great time to be out here rodeoing," Branquinho said. "The days are long, but it's usually not too terribly hot."

The Oakdale (Calif.) Saddle Club Rodeo and Red Bluff (Calif.) Round-Up have concluded. Several California rodeos are ahead, including Clovis (April 24-26), Bakersfield (May 1-2) and Redding (May 14-16). The Redding Rodeo is a Silver-tier stop on the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour presented by Justin Boots.

Colorado native and timed-event star Josh Peek is looking forward to competing at the Redding Rodeo in May.

"It's normally like 70-80 degrees, slight breezes, real peaceful," said Peek, who joined the PRCA in 2002. "It's a break for us from the rigorous travel schedule that we have in the winter where we go back and forth.

"In California, you spend three weeks — a week in each place — Red Bluff, Clovis and Redding. We've played baseball, and a lot of guys play basketball. You can take a young horse out and do a lot of riding."

Peek will rejoin his fellow cowboys in May. He is currently off the road. He and his wife, Kori, are expecting twins in July, and he is spending time getting ready for their arrival. Peek will then be among those in the California sunshine.

Some stay at fairgrounds near the arena and in hotels, while others stay with California cowboys and stock contractors.

California saddle bronc rider Justin Arnold, who lives in Santa Margarita with his wife, Cory, are planning on hosting out-of-state saddle bronc riders, such as Chet Johnson of Gillette, Wyo., and PRCA World Standings leader Bryce Miller from Buffalo, S.D., later this month. Arnold likes to take visiting bronc riders to his father-in-law's ranch near the beach. His past guests have included seven-time World Champion Dan Mortensen, who will be inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in July.

"I took him boogie boarding one time," Arnold said of Mortensen.

The difficult thing could be convincing cowboys to move on when it's time to go.

"It's just a beautiful time of the year," Branquinho said.