CNFR'S Unsung Feature: The Dirt



"Rodeo has been known as the greatest show on dirt for a long time."

Maintaining that dirt is a big job. One that rodeo coach JD Van Hooser has done for 11 years now.

"It's not just getting on the tractor and dropping the arena tool on the ground and just driving," says Van Hooser. "You gotta constantly pay attention to what the ground's doing."

"There's a little over a million square yards of dirt in this arena and out back."

That's about 156.26 football fields. And so making it perfect is anything but easy.

"We've been out here picking up rocks for days," Logan Corbett, New Mexico State rodeo coach and grounds crew volunteer, jokes.

"You guys had a lot of snow in the past couple of months," explains Van Hooser. "It was very very muddy."

"So we actually put some sand in this year so that's gonna change the composition of that dirt," Corbett finishes.

And for these riders and racers, that composition matters.

"If you have too much water, the ground packs really hard and it's a lot tougher for the horses to not slip on," Van Hooser discusses. "If I have it worked too well and it gets too deep, then you can have some problems with pulled tendons and things like that."

To keep things level a tractor drag is necessary pretty consistently. And this year JD and his crew got a new toy, nicknamed the Drag Queen.

"It's kind of an all-around tool," says Van Hooser. "We can break the ground with it. We can pack the ground with it if we need to."

And the athletes here at CNFR have noticed the difference too.

"The Draq Queen's great, the drag they got here," says Marcus Theriot, Men's 2016 All-Around CNFR Champion. "But the dirt's good. This place here is an outstanding place for the College Finals."

"Just hours and hours and hours making sure [the dirt's] got plenty of moisture, making sure it's right," Corbett concludes. "A lot of people that just come has spectators, they have no idea."

It might be a thankless job, but like the ice at the Stanley Cup or the greens at the Masters, the greatest show can't happen without the dirt.