The Cracker Day Rodeo

One Trip
Marianne of East of Malaga has created the One Trip EVERY Month Challenge which sounds like fun. She’s even suggesting we include those local places of interest that we never get around to visiting but wished we had.

With cameras in hand, Ron and I headed to The Cracker Day Rodeo, which took place at The Lee County Posse Arena in North Fort Myers, Florida, the end of January.

“If you climb in the saddle, be ready for the ride.”  ___Unknown

We just had a few hours to spend and missed some of the events, but watching these young people, mostly girls, give it their all, was an entertaining way to spend an afternoon.

Posse Rodeo

The contestants are divided into two divisions: the Pee Wee, ages 10 and under and the Junior, ages 11-17.

Parents and grandparents sported their western wear as they took seats on the worn out bleachers and the procession got under way. The Grand Entry was presented by the Lee County Junior Posse comprising of at least 30 girls riding in on horseback, some with flags.

Posse Rodeo

The event commentator, a fifth generation Florida Cracker, with a booming voice, announced the rodeo queen and proudly, with shining tiara, she rode in. Immediate applause from the stands.

Posse RodeoPosse Rodeo

With music blaring from the loudspeakers, from country to disco, the team of girls skillfully did their routine. Timing was everything as they crissed-crossed in front of each other on their beautifully groomed horses.

Posse Rodeo

The Pee Wee Goat Tail Tying competition consisted of riding into the ring, dismounting and tying a ribbon on the tail of a goat, which was held in place by the “goat lady.”  For some it wasn’t as easy as it looked. No goat is going to stand completely still and enjoy having its tail tied.

Posse Rodeo

Even harder was the Junior Goat Tying competition which consisted of riding in, dismounting, catching a goat which was tethered on a long rope, flipping it on its side and tying three legs together. To qualify, the goat had to remain tied for six seconds and many a goat wiggled loose before then.

Posse Rodeo

The Hairpin competition consisted of riding in and racing around one barrel back to the start line for the fastest time. These girls and their horses seemed to have that one down.

Posse Rodeo Posse Rodeo

The Posse Arena was founded in 1960 and the Cracker Day Rodeo is its signature event. It receives no funding from the county and is a non-profit organization which helps fund local 4-H and high school rodeos. It was clear that many of these contestants come from families whose parents and even grandparents once rode in that same arena. This part of the county is horse, cattle and agricultural, noted from the many farms and ranches dotting the area.

The term “cracker” is based on Florida’s “cracker cowboys” of the 19th and early 20th centuries; distinct from the Spanish vaquero and the Western cowboy.  During this time, Florida was once the largest cattle producer behind Texas. These were no common cows. They were descendents of the Spanish Andalusian stock left from the days of Ponce De Leon in 1521. Rough and rugged, these cows could subsist on palmetto leaves and the scrub land. They seemed to resist the heat, humidity, and malarial mosquitoes.

Instead of fencing their cattle, they were left to roam. Cowboys did not use lassos to herd or capture cattle.  Instead they used dogs and long braided-leather whips to round up and move cows. The crack of the whip could be heard for days as cattle were driven down the main streets of Ft. Myers to the Punta Rassa dock where they could be shipped to Cuba. Today, Punta Rassa is where the bridge goes to Sanibel Island, one of SW Florida’s famous beach destinations.

The Florida Cracker Horse also traces its ancestry to De Leon. Left behind by the Spanish, these Iberian Horses of Spanish and African descent adapted to their Florida surroundings, a breed that evolved from natural selection. It was this breed that has had a vital role in Florida emerging as a ranching and agricultural state. It also had an important role with the Seminole Indians. Today, these ponies are called: Chickasaw Pony, Seminole Pony, Marsh Tackie, Prairie Pony, Florida Horse, Florida Cow Pony, Grass Gut and others. The Florida Cracker Horse Association was chartered in 1989 as a non-profit Florida Corporation. Its purpose is the preservation and perpetuation of the Cracker Horse as a distinct and unique Colonial Spanish breed of horse.

The expression “cracker” is commonly used to designate a Florida native, but is also used as a derogatory term meaning, redneck, etc.

Obviously, the Cracker Day Rodeo is a venue that proudly honors its pioneer and Florida heritage, and is a place to showcase these kids’ hard work and talent.

Posse Rodeo

 “Let a horse whisper in your ear and breathe on your heart. You will never regret it.”  ~Unknown


About travelerlynne

Traveler. Writer. Retired Educator.Traveling on and off the beaten path with my photographer husband. Volunteering locally as well as in Haiti and Tanzania, an enriching and humbling experience. A sun lover! Shelling, boating, fishing and watching sunsets. Growing mango, banana, key lime,and pineapple.Making smoothies and chutneys. Enjoying family and friends! Savoring each new day!
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28 Responses to The Cracker Day Rodeo

  1. wow i loved this! i was one of those young crackers once upon a time in a land far away and long ago! i never tied goats (precious photo) but i participated in speed events. made me wistful to run those barrels again!
    the final photo is lovely.. what a precious and poised young lady!

  2. Marianne says:

    WooHoo! That looks like FUN, Lynne!

    Those little girls were handy at tying the goat up/down, weren’t they?

    Fantastic trip Lynne – thank you so much for sharing 🙂

  3. restlessjo says:

    Love the little one tying the goat’s tail and the Rodeo Queen in her tiara, Lynne. What a lot of work has gone into this show but what a lovely way to preserve the traditions 🙂

    • The goat tail tying was a “hoot.” But they tried. Ties to the land and ones culture are important in this region. This was a fun event. Wished we could have stayed for more events.

  4. Love the idea of a ladies rodeo – a post full of movement and stories – terrific. 🙂

  5. Gigi Galore says:

    Wonderful rodeo for girls! Very energetic and fun post Lynne! And what gorgeous photos! 🙂

  6. Thanks, Gigi. These girls had their day and some are riding tall with winning their events. But win or come in last, they competed with dignity and sportsmanship. I was also pleased with Ron’s photos.

  7. This post is fascinating. I often wondered where the term “cracker” came from. I really enjoyed reading about the history, and of course, seeing the many talented Cracker riders. Thanks, Lynne.

  8. Letizia says:

    What a fun event to visit, great photos! I can’t imagine the disco music, that really had me laughing 🙂

    • Not only disco, but Jazz, TV soundtrack bytes from Gilligan’s Island, Sponge Bob, etc. You name it, I heard it. It was even choreographed to what the girls were doing. Someone who could hit all these musical choices in a split second while the announcer did his thing and the girls did their thing. Pretty amusing and totally unexpected.

  9. Yeehaw! It looks like a great event.
    We live in Texas and went to a competitive rodeo once, it was absolutely amazing. I’m sure this is one was interesting to watch as well.

  10. Wonderful post, Lynne, and I so enjoyed the photos and the history behind this Rodeo. I’m sure you and Ron had fun watching all the displays. My favourite photo is of the young lady and her gorgeous horse doing the Hairpin. What a memorable outing you had. Thanks for sharing. Love the quotes too. 🙂

  11. I loved that action picture too. So much determination on the horse and rider’s faces. I really enjoyed getting into researching the origin of Cracker. Thanks, Sylvia for your comments. 🙂

  12. rigmover says:

    Wow brave kids, I wouldn’t do that.

  13. vbholmes says:

    Your text and Ron’s photos make the Cracker Day Rodeo sound like a fun destination. I enjoyed learning the origin of the word “cracker” and about the heritage of the Florida Cracker horses and cattle. Amazing that there are still descendants of Ponce de Leon’s stock alive in today’s Florida. Are they still in plentiful supply or have they essentially become collector’s items?
    Very interesting post, as always, Lynne. Many thanks for an enjoyable read.

  14. Thanks for reading and commenting. As I understand, the Florida Cracker Horse Association began in 1989 and using strict guidelines registered 31 Cracker horses. Today there are 800 registered. Breeding rules are strict and probably expensive. Without some guidelines and verifiable pedigree history, all the horses would be mixes. Am glad this was done.

  15. Madhu says:

    What a fun event Lynne! Your wonderful narrative and Ron’s excellent photos bring it alive for us. And thank you for the back story. I had no idea of the word’s origins!

  16. We definitely were soaking up some regional culture. It’s always interesting to me to learn about local history and to find it so close by. These kids were so cute. Some were obviously nervous and others were quite poised and ready.

  17. Some great pics you grabbed there, Lynne. I love that one in the purple shirt – horse and rider immersed in the moment!

  18. I liked that rider also. She really had it together. It was a fun afternoon. Time well spent.

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