RODEO PREVIEW: In the ring with Bit-A-Bling (with video, photos)

RODEO PREVIEW: In the ring with Bit-A-Bling (with video, photos)

CLOVERDALE — Think "rodeo" and you’ll probably conjure up images of bronc and bareback riding, calf roping, barrel racing, and basically anything with obvious elements of danger/total insanity.

But there’s another discipline common to just about every modern rodeo that’s no less impressive. It features pretty women carrying pretty flags whilst riding pretty horses. It’s called the "Grand Entry" and it happens at the start of every performance.

Miss it and you’ll miss some truly skilled stuff. You see, the Grand Entry is no mere fluffy procession. It’s serious business.

I had a chance to see how serious when I recently visited a practice session — and stood inside the ring — at the Stetson Bowl. It didn’t take long to come to grips.

First off, these horses are big. Really big. And really powerful. The idea of opening the gate and fleeing my impending doom at one point became reality.

Once I stopped whimpering, however, I got back in there and closely watched all that went on. Twenty riders in all, weaving intricate patterns, moving swiftly through open gaps and always coming perilously close to one another. And all at a full gallop.

Soon, each rider grabbed a large flag and continued on, except now with just one hand on the reins. Every so often, a horse would get a little squirrelly, only to be calmly brought under control before any damage was done.

(Story continues below video "Opening the 65th Cloverdale Rodeo with BIT-A-BLING")

 

 

And that’s when it finally sunk in: Though the big-time competitive events may get all the ink, the Grand Entry is mighty demanding in its own right. Indeed, it takes a heckuva lot of work, not to mention experience and raw talent, to make it look as comparatively "safe" and fluid as it seems from the grandstand.

"It’s our seventh year together as a team," says Sheila Caravetta.

Caravetta, who says she rode horses before she could walk, is team captain of "Bit-A-Bling," the local outfit that’s been responsible for the Grand Entry at the Cloverdale Rodeo for the past seven years.

An Air Canada pilot when she’s not riding, Caravetta explains that the Grand Entry’s been in her blood from childhood.

"I was actually in the stands with my dad watching the first Cloverdale Rodeo I ever attended.

I must have been nine or 10. And I saw the girls come in with the Grand Entry and I said to my dad, ‘I want to do this. This looks fun.’" Fifteen years ago, she rode in her first Grand Entry. Seven years ago, Bit-A-Bling was formed and they’ve been at it ever since. These days, the group does not only the Cloverdale Rodeo, but the Ashcroft Rodeo and the North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo, too.

Want in? OK, the next open practice happens in November. You’d better bring your own horse, you’d better be female (sorry, guys) and you’d better be ready to practice at least once a week every month of the year.

And you’d better expect to face off against other women who, like Caravetta, have been riding practically since birth.

"You have to be a good rider because we cover some ground out there," she says. "We all come from a variety of disciplines. I come from a dressage background, some girls come from jumping, some girls are reigning (a sort of up-tempo dressage)."

Don’t expect to get rich, however. Team coach Sharon Jackson, who was there with Caravetta and others at the beginning of Bit-ABling, says there’s no money to be made. "The team gets a stipend that covers the expense of being here…. Five costumes (one for each performance), flags, matching equipment, and that’s it."

Jackson, who is 60 and would now rather stand in the ring instructing than ride, is the person responsible for the patterns and the drills you’ll see whenever Bit-A-Bling performs. She laughs a lot and jokes that she has the job because, "They couldn’t suck anyone else into doing it" – but is clearly a hugely dedicated overseer.

"It’s people management, is what it is," she says. "It’s people times two, because they have their beloved animals out there."

Soon, Jackson is back in the ring, copious notes at her side, directing things. Caravetta’s there, too, of course, as is spectator Linda Temple watching her daughter Dallyce do her thing. Little Sydney Ball, wearing a cowboy hat, jumps up on the fence, trying to get a better view of her mom Shelley.

Over in the parking lot, the men gather as the women rehearse. Tonight, Dan Jensen, husband of veteran rider Megan, brought along a big-screen TV, hooked it to his tablet and mounted it in the back of his pickup truck. And now all of them are watching a Canucks playoff game. It’s like one big family, and that’s just the way they want it.

For more info on Bit-A-Bling, check out their website at Bit-a-bling.com.

Goble@shaw.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Traffic was tied up at the intersection of Scott and Old Yale Roads in North Surrey on Tuesday afternoon, after a semi truck hauling a load of pipes flipped while making a turn. (Shane MacKichan photos)
VIDEO: Semi hauling load of pipes flips in North Surrey intersection

Traffic near Scott and Old Yale Roads tied up by Tuesday afternoon incident

Sheila Malcolmson, B.C.’s minister of mental health and addictions (Screen shot)
Minister of mental health tells Surrey audience COVID-19 ‘has made everything worse’

More than 23,000 people in B.C. are receiving medication to treat opioid addiction

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Tens of thousands of farmers descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Delta council stands in solidarity with protesting Indian farmers

Farmers have been protesting for months new laws they say leave them open to corporate exploitation

Shana Harris-Morris was killed Feb. 4. (GoFundMe photo)
IHIT says 22-year-old killed in Surrey shooting was ‘unintended victim’

Shana Harris’ family makes appeal for more information

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media file)
Man charged after pushing pregnant woman to the ground in Surrey, police say

Surrey RCMP say it appeared to be an ‘unprovoked assault’

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

In a 2019 photograph, Yin Yin Din held a picture of her brother Kyaw Naing Din, 54, and her late father Hla Din who passed away in 2014, during a trip to Victoria. (The News files)
Family of B.C. man killed by cop appeals to Attorney General for help

The Din family want B.C. Attorney General David Eby to forward their case to Crown

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Of 46 arrests made between March 16 and 19 at Metrotown mall in Burnaby, 27 suspected shoplifters are now facing charges. (Twitter/Burnaby RCMP)
RCMP arrest 46 people in 4 days during Metrotown shoplifting crackdown

$4,800 in stolen merchandise was recovered and returned to businesses inside of the mall

Maple Ridge's Doug Ubell caught some photographs recently that he was anxious to share, one taken while on the Trans-Canada Trail looking southwest towards the Pitt River Bridge, and another from on Golden Ears Bridge. (Special to The News)
Traffic on Golden Ears Bridge returning to pre-pandemic levels

Commuters from Greater Vancouver still driving more, taking transit less

Kao Macaulay has been charged in relation to a home break-in on March 30 in Abbotsford in which five kittens were stolen. (Facebook photo)
‘Prolific offender’ charged with theft of 5 newborn kittens in Abbotsford

Kao Macaulay, 23, is accused of breaking into home on March 30

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Most Read