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Events for the Winter Ranch Olympics

Tayler Teichert for Progressive Cattleman Published on 11 April 2018
snow-covered bales

Depending on where you call home, spring and winter swapped places this year. While the Winter Olympics were taking place, it was 50 to 60 degrees in Idaho. But once March rolled around, winter decided to show up.

After watching all these athletes in leotards skating around on the ice, making it look so effortless and graceful, I started comparing my life to theirs. Replace their freshly groomed rink with a windblown frozen puddle, their colorful leotard with five layers of work clothes and their figure skates for my pack boots, and we are ready to light the torch of the annual Winter Ranch Olympics.

The first event is the Unexpected Figure Skating. In this event, the Olympians have to feed on a brisk March morning and stop to get a stack yard gate, and somewhere between the tractor and the gate under a skiff of fresh snow is a glassy frozen puddle. As soon as I made contact with the ice, the crowd went wild – they didn’t expect me to do the splits and rip my pants in one fell swoop. It’s safe to say nines were scored across the board.

After the figure skating champions have received their medals, the crowd’s attention shifts to the event where competitors have to close double swinging gates on well-oiled hinges – in a windstorm. This event is for athletes with speed and agility. Getting the gates shut on the first attempt is almost unheard of; a lot of times this event gets paired with the figuring skating depending on puddle location.

Ranch Olympics don’t stick to the typical Winter Olympic events; we cheat a bit and combine some summer events with snow to maximize the viewing experience. Or maybe it’s just a means of survival. For example, we have the Calving Pole Vaulting. This event consists of an angry hormonal cow, a sorting stick and a fence. I think you get the picture. Competitors only receive a score if the fence is successfully cleared.

Our fencing event comes on at 7 a.m. MST. This isn’t the fencing you might think would be included in Ranch Olympics, or the real Olympics for that matter. This includes a pocketknife and a bale with frozen twine. It can be quite the feat to get those strings off to begin feeding hungry cattle. Fastest time and least swear words wins.

The winter 50-yard dash usually includes cattle and an open stack yard they shouldn’t be walking toward. Competitors need to have their head on a swivel while loading hay. They may have to abandon their chore and sprint to the gate. Points are deducted for every cow that gets through the gate. There is an added degree of difficulty because the dress code is very comparable to the younger brother from A Christmas Story who can’t put his arms down, let alone sprint.

You may think you are only a rancher, but remember you are an athlete. Not just an athlete, but an Olympian! Here’s to the summer of training for the annual Winter Ranch Olympics.  end mark

Tayler Teichert, a 26-year-old sixth-generation rancher, was born and raised ranching across the American West. Since she left home, she has worked in the Sandhills of Nebraska, the shadows of Elk Mountain, the high desert of Idaho and the sage of northern Nevada. In her writing and photography, she documents the action, beauty and everyday life on the ranch while working as a full-time ranch hand. You can learn more about Tayler and check out her photography on her website.

PHOTO: Round bales getting prepped for the Winter Ranch Olympics fencing event. Photo by Tayler Teichert.