Maryland has a new entity within its borders. Of course it is not a brand new entity, just new to Maryland, but it is one of the healthiest improvements to the youth of this state that could arrive. Let me explain.
The entity is the Maryland High School Rodeo Association, hereinafter for the demands of space and my arthritic fingers, to be designated MDHSRA.
The High School Rodeo Association itself has been around in the south and west since its incorporation in 1961. To be totally truthful this association was the eventual outcome of work NHSRA Founding Father Claude Mullins and his wife Tavalli. Mr. Mullins was a school superintendent in Texas who in 1949 organized the first ever national championship rodeo for high school students after he had produced two successful state finals rodeos in his home state of Texas the two years prior. He started high school rodeo on the basis of keeping education at the forefront of the mission of the organization. It was at his insistence that academic requirements be included for qualification to compete in high school rodeo as well as college scholarships being a part of the awards from the very first national finals rodeo.The National High School Rodeo Foundation was created in 1970. It was awarded tax-exempt status five years later and began administering scholarship loans to NHSRA members. In 1982, the Foundation discontinued its loan program and began the current process of awarding scholarship grants which do not have to be repaid. The Foundation is the "scholarship arm" of the NHSRA, awarding thousands of dollars in educational funding each year to NHSRA members.
The scholarships program is alive and well. Of the 18 awards listed many of them with both cowgirl/cowboy sections in amounts from $500 and up — none offers the possibility of a 2nd year grantif the grades of the recipientcontinue to a certain standard. Several of them are in amounts of $1000 and up. To find out more about this program you can go to http://www.nhsrfoundation.com/home.html
The important thing that you need to know is that this is yet another way that kids with rural backgrounds can find ways to get help to go to college. And the most important thing that you need to know is that the kids really love this exposure to the values and adventure of rodeo.
Rodeo makes no apologies for its Christian values. That doesn't mean that it discriminates against other religious values, just that prayer is alive and well in rodeo. Considering that men and women routinely risk their lives in the arena in order to prove themselves this is a good thing. If prayer annoys you probably rodeo is not your sport. If you think you can change a cowboy's mind about praying, well, you might want to try bull riding … it could be safer.
The values of rodeo are the bedrock that America was built upon and they are as solid today as they were in the days of the great Wild West. You help each other, you do your best to win and you accept defeat without anger, whining or recriminations. You treat your horse as you might your best friend (I can remember one older cowboy saying wistfully, "When I die, I want to come back as one of them lady barrel racer's horses. Man, that's the way to live!"). And your dog, heeler or Aussie, lives and travels with you as one of the family. If this is a bad way for a kid to live, someone needs to explain it to me. On second thought, don't bother. At my age I don't have time to listen to nonsense.
I could go on but if you check out the MDHSRA website at http://www.mdhsra.org/home.html you will see what it is all about and that is the kids. Kids working with horses and other livestock, kids riding, racing around poles and barrels, kids roping and, yes, even riding bulls. You can read the writing but if you want to really see what is happening I urge you to check out the kids in the gallery of photos.
If you are as captivated by this group of youngsters as I am you might want to see them in action over at Howard County during Fair week. On Thursday, August 7th, at 11a.m. there will be a MDHSRA rodeo. This is a small and very new organization here in MD so it won't be a long rodeo but it may just be the best darn rodeo you have ever seen.
In this day of bad and worse news it's just amazing what a bunch of kids can do, given the opportunity and a little help to set things up. It's one of those things that kinda makes your heart proud.
Hope Holland is a Times equestrian writer. Her column appears every Sunday. Reach her at 410-857-7896 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun