A lot can happen in a New York minute, but that ain’t nothing compared to a Midwest minute at the rodeo. For Casey Yamaura of Milbank and his team called Border Crisis, 60 exciting seconds was the only thing standing between them and the 2023 Minnesota State Ranch Rodeo Finals. They made them count. Border Crisis corralled a spot at State in September.
Casey, a 2020 graduate of Milbank High School, explained. “We rode with the best-of-the-best in Minnesota all year in our series at the Rusty Spur Arena in Spicer. To qualify for the state finals we had to rank in the top six of about 30 teams.”
If it’s been a while since you’ve been to a rodeo, Casey offered to sort out just what goes on there. And he’s a guy who understands sorting because sorting is one of the four main events of the rodeo.
He explains, “In sorting, each cow has a number from one to eight. A sequence such as 3,4,5,6,7,8,1,2 is called, and the team has to move the herd in numerical order from one pen to the other end of the arena in 60 seconds or less. The most important thing is to sort your cow at the wall and bring them clean,” he adds.
In the doctoring competition, there’s a large herd, and when the number is called, the team must pick out the animal with that number. One team member must rope the calf and dally, and the doctor must throw the shaving cream and run back to the flag. All in under a minute.
In trailer loading, a number is called — let’s say three –and the team has to round up both No. 3 heifers, load them into the front of the trailer, shut the slam gate in the middle, load the horse they were riding, shut that door, and run to the front of the trailer and grab the rope to call time. Casey says, “It’s important that the trailer is tight and loud and has no gaps where the heifer can escape.”
In sort and pen, three numbers are called. The calves have to be removed from the herd in the order they are called and put in the pen at the end of the arena. Casey’s best advice is, “Work together as a team and make sure you ride your cows right and push and ride your heifers. Oh, and make lots of noise!”
Lickety-split! In the time it took for you to just read about it, Casey and his team got r done! Each event goes by in a flash. He says his team’s route to State wasn’t quite as quick. “It was a rocky road. When we hit the series finals, we came in ranked at 11th. That weekend was a whirlwind. We had our ups and downs, but luckily mostly ups. Saturday, we got an all-eight head run in sorting in 58 seconds. We worked our tails off in trailer loading because the cattle were tough, but we pulled off second place.”
Everything was riding on Sunday, though. “We started out amazing!’ he says.. “We placed third in sorting with an all-eight head run. Then, the run that made it happen – the sort and pen. We took home first place with a 34-second run. That win secured our spot in the state finals!”
Casey has only gratitude for and good words to say about his Border Crisis teammates Tammie and Bruce Anderson, Bree Latham, and Kaylyn Irwin, whose ages span several decades. He says, “Tammie and Bruce are like the grandparents of the group. They always tell us what to do, where the cow is, etc. They are loving, and kind people, and I couldn’t do this without them. Bree rides hard and knows how to do her job. Kaylyn, now she’s the noise maker. She’s got a scream like no other, and if you’re not ready for it, she’ll make you jump. She can really ride on a cow good, though, and can sort them off very well, too.”
“I also have to give a big hand to my No. 1 supporter, Conner Stricherz,” Casey adds. “Conner started ranch rodeo in January, and he has come a long way. Conner’s put in hours and hours learning. He didn’t make it to State this year, but he tried really hard. He always gives me a big ol’ high-five after a good run. He’s my ride-or-die best friend, and I couldn’t be more thankful for him helping me and pushing me every step of the way.” Gary Lee, who breeds the horses Casey buys, is another guy who has helped him to learn and ride.
Casey also adores his four-legged friends and points to them as the heart and soul of his team. “I usually haul Two Horse Cowboy and Jerry, but Jerry is the horse I ride the most. She’s my little 13.3 hand, sorrel, cutting horse. She works her tail off for me and has the biggest heart I’ve ever seen in a horse. If Jerry’s not in the trailer, the rodeo just isn’t the same.”
“Cowboy is the horse I normally rope off of in doctoring. He’s my backup in case anyone’s horse gets injured. Cowboy knows what to do. He’s also a sorrel gelding but bigger than Jerry,” he says. “Everyone teases me because my horses are all the same color.” Casey just laughs it off. “I don’t buy a horse for its color.”
Sarah Lee is Tammie’s mare. “She still acts like a three-year-old at the age of 23,” Casey notes. “Bruce rides a mare named Sandy. She sometimes goes by other names, but those can’t be repeated. Kaylyn rides a thick sorrel mare who gives everything she’s got. Bree’s big bay gelding is named Rocky. True to his name, he has his “rocky” moments. But, don’t we all?” Casey adds with a grin. A true statement, but cross your fingers that it’s smooth sailing for Casey and all of his Border Crisis team during State. They enter the competition tied for fifth in the rankings.
The Minnesota State Ranch Rodeo Finals commence September 9 at noon at the Birch Coulee Arena in Morton, Minnesota. Casey says, “My team has got this, and we are ready for that buckle!