By Raiza Giorgi
The Santa Ynez Valley is known for world-renowned wines and winemakers as well as top horses and their trainers and breeders.
Now the organizers of the first Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country Rodeo have put the two together with a goal of creating an exciting annual benefit.
“We thought this event would reflect our Western culture and wine history, attracting people of all walks of life to come and support our local equestrian center and programs,” said committee member Robin Hardin.
The rodeo is a sanctioned Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) event. It will begin at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16, at the Santa Ynez Valley Equestrian Center on Refugio Road south of Highway 246.
Sponsoring the event in part is Santa Ynez Valley Real Estate. Co-owner Allan Jones said he decided to help because the event promotes the benefits of local youth activities at the SYVEA and helps continue local agricultural traditions.
Events that will be featured in the rodeo are bull riding, saddle bronc, bareback bronc, tie-down roping, team roping, barrel racing and steer wrestling. Junior events include barrel racing and breakaway roping.
The PRCA, headquartered in Colorado Springs, annually sanctions about 650 top-of-the-line multiple-event rodeos in North America, in about 38 states and three or four Canadian provinces.
“We already have some world champion cowboys that live in the valley, and we are excited to bring even more amazing professionals to the area for a fun event and raise money for the equestrian center at the same time,” Hardin said.
One of those famous cowboys is Luke Branquinho, the five-time world champion steer wrestler from Los Alamos who he is planning to participate in the event.
“Everyone around here loves the Western lifestyle and now they can enjoy it right in their backyard. I am happy to see a professional rodeo in the valley,” Branquinho said.
He recently won the steer wrestling competition at the Ventura County Fair Rodeo and is working toward another PRCA championship.
Rodeo’s world champions are crowned at the conclusion of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, based on total season earnings at PRCA rodeos across the continent, including money earned at the national finals in December.
PRCA-sanctioned rodeos annually raise more than $16 million for local and national charities. This event will raise money for the SYV Equestrian Association, which operates the local multi-use facility for equestrian-related events.
The equestrian center is at 195 N. Refugio Road in Santa Ynez. For more information on the rodeo, go to www.syvwinecountryrodeo.com, and for the equestrian association log onto www.syvea.org.