54th Dixie National Rodeo: Behind the Scenes

The bulls and the horses are ready for showtime

Dixie National Livestock show rodeo

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - The 54th Annual Dixie National Rodeo kicks off at the Mississippi Coliseum. For the next week, some of the best cowboys in the country will go up against some of the most powerful animals.

Bull arrive for Thursday's opening show.
Bull arrive for Thursday's opening show.

“All right whoa,” Lair said to a driver backing up with a trailer full of bulls.

J.W. Lair has been a rider for years.

“I steer wrestle and calf rope and team rope,” he said. But due to an injury he won’t be performing this year so he’s working the rodeo instead.

For four more weeks, Lair will be doing one of the most dangerous jobs in the rodeo: unloading and moving the bulls.

“I have broken arms, knees.” he said describing just some of the injuries that he has sustained so far during his rodeo career.

Cowboys place horses and bulls in pins in preparation for opening night.
Cowboys place horses and bulls in pins in preparation for opening night.

Howard Harper’s father was one of founders of the Harper Morgan Company. It’s the company that produces the Dixie National. After 25 years in the rodeo business Harper is retired now, but he is still the go to man when it comes to the rodeo.

"A big computer in Colorado Springs say what bulls and what horses go out what night. The are matched up with the cowboys that you will see tonight."

Before the cowboys get into town they already know what bulls and what horses will be at each rodeo. So, most of them already have strategy in mind.

“These horses will be pouring it on the cowboys and doing anything they can to stick their heads in the dirt like a yard dart,” Harper said as the horses were let into the arena for the first time.

If a horse has performed exceptionally well all year it is marked with a green sticker. They will join an elite herd to go to the National Finals.

“They go up against the best 15 cowboys in the world,” Harper said.

“I’m here for the tie down roping,” Neil Duve said as he prepared his horse for a bath.

At 16, Neil Duve got into the rodeo game late.

“I was a big basketball player and football player and just didn’t get started until high school,” he said.

Duve said he has been riding his horse for 6 years to get him ready for the Dixie National.

“Practice you know, For me it’s been everyday for the last 9/10 years,” he continued.

But like all of the cowboys I spoke with, Duve says the practice is worth it.

“It’s an adrenaline rush for sure. You really got to keep a level head and just got do your job but it is fund for sure,” he said.

Duve will be performing on Sunday.

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