The East Mountain Rodeo Association will hold its inaugural Estancia Valley Ranch Rodeo at the Heritage Rodeo Arena in Moriarty on July 16 and 17.

According to Chris Morgan, chairman and director of the rodeo, the event will be “a lot different” than what rodeo-goers typically see.

Ranch rodeos date back to the Old West, when neighboring ranches would get together to see whose cowboys were the toughest and most skilled. They pit teams of real working cowboys in direct competition with each other.

This event will showcase the “skills that actual cowboys use Monday through Friday on their ranches,” said Morgan, and competitors will have to prove that their income comes from ranching.

Fourteen teams from New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Kansas will compete for a spot in the Working Ranch Cowboys Association finals to be held in Amarillo in November.

Competitors will go head-to-head in classic cowboy skills like saddle bronc riding, where riders will use a traditional saddle with a horn and reins.

Teams will compete in a sorting event where competitors must quickly sort cattle into various pens for either branding, doctoring, or transport.

There will be a stray-gathering event where riders must regain control of two errant cows, and a branding event where chalk will be utilized to mark cattle rather than a hot brand.

One of the most fun competitions, said Morgan, will be the wild cow milking event. Teams will have to subdue a “wild,” or semi-feral, cow that is not used to being milked, and the team with the most milk in their bottle at the buzzer wins.

The East Mountain Rodeo Association is the brainchild of Morgan and partners James Whelchel, Andy Demarcus, William Babers, and Derek Tucker, all of whom grew up in the Estancia Valley. In August 2020, when Morgan was deployed with the Air Force in Afghanistan, and “Covid shut down the world,” they decided that they would create the rodeo association and the WRCA-sanctioned ranch rodeo to “give back to the community,” said Morgan.

As a non-profit, the EMRA will be donating all ranch rodeo profits to charity. This year, those recipients will include local organization Charlie Five, which partners horses with veterans and first responders to help them heal from PTSD and other traumas, and the WRCA Foundation, which offers ranchers and their families financial assistance in crises and disasters, and grants annual scholarships.

In addition to the rodeo event, there will be live performances July 17, when the Brandon Saiz Band of Albuquerque will open for headliner Jordan Robert Kirk, a country musician from west Texas. All concert proceeds will go to the two charities as well.

The night of July 16, is designated as Remember Everyone Deployed night, and guests are encouraged to wear red in support. Saturday, July 17, will be First Responders Appreciation Night, and visitors can wear blue to show solidarity.

Prices for the ranch rodeo range from $10-$13 for adults and $8-$10 for children 12 and under. Tickets for the concert can be purchased separately for $5 or as part of the Saturday rodeo ticket. Ticket purchases can be made online at eastmountainrodeo.com.