An Amish Rodeo

I’m calling it “Amish” in the title, though that’s not totally accurate. More of the participants were probably non-Amish, though there were quite a few Amish riders as well, and a heavily Amish crowd.

Riders perform each Monday in the spring and summer, but as I understood it the August 27 event at Hill Brook Farm Arena was the highlight show of the season.  I was able to stay for 3 or 4 of the evening’s competitions. I’ve already shown you a bit of the egg and spoon race.  How about a few more photos.

First, I suppose every rodeo needs a clown. This guy rode around on a number of vehicles, and generally behaved, well, clowny.

Amish Rodeo Clown


Amish Rodeo Pony Cart

I forgot the name of this event [-it’s “barrel racing”, thanks Britt], but it’s a pretty simple one. Riders had to loop around 3 barrels in succession, and then race to cross the finish line in the fastest time.

Amish Cowgirl


Amish Rodeo Turn


Hill Brook Rodeo Lancaster

Sometimes turns don’t go quite as planned.

Mose Hard Turn

The kids were all called out at one point, though I’m not exactly sure why.

Lancaster Rodeo Kids

My favorite event was probably the cattle pen, or was it cattle herd.  No matter. The young bovines were marked with numbers (three of each number, 0-6). Three riders would attempt to pen all the animals of a given number (the announcer would call the number out just as they were approaching the herd). The fastest to get all three penned won.

Here’s the clown fooling around again before the next team gets started.

Amish Rodeo Cattle

It took true skill to pinpoint and separate the excitable beasts from their companions.

Amish Rodeo Girls


Amish Girls Cattle Rodeo

Another gang having at it.

Cattle Pen Lancaster Rodeo

Often the riders would get one with the wrong number and have to nudge it back and try again. You could also be disqualified if wrong-numbered animals made it back to the pen side of the arena.

Mose Cattle Rodeo

Here’s what you wanted things to look like in the end. Nice job, guys.

Cattle Penned

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    1. Britt

      The event with the Barrels is “barrel racing” whoever has the fastest time.. Knocking over barrels adds time to your run…Use to love to do barrels!! My super hyper horse loved it too!!

    2. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      I don’t want to make fun, but I am struck by the pants the woman is wearing in addition to her dress. I suppose it works to preserve modesty, not show “a little leg” at all. At first I thought they where long boots. Is this a commonplace thing?
      I like the pictures, very well done.

      1. Marvin Mohler

        Happens often among plain people. Strictly for modesty.

    3. Elizabeth Snoke

      Shades of the Old West!!! Of course, “cowboys” lived in Viginia and other eastern states before making their way west.

      1. Micheal McEvoy

        Virginia "Cowboys"

        Historically, the only true eastern cowboys were the Florida Crackers.
        All other drovers followed the Irish/Scottish tradition of driving cattle on foot.
        The Spanish were the one’s who introduced horses to cattle handling,with the lariet being introduced by African slaves brought to Mexico by the Spanish.
        I wrote a fairly comprehensive paper for a college geography class on the evolution of the North American Cowboy Culture that I would be willing to share for those interested.

        As a side, do the Amish in Montana ranch, or are they still farmers?

        1. Mark Yoder

          Yeah, I'd like the article

          Yes, Michael McEvoy, I’d love to see your article on cowboy history. Could you send it to

        2. Montana Amish ranching?

          Michael, based on a 6-yr-old directory it looks like construction and woodworking are the most prevalent occupations in Montana (Rexford, St. Ignatius communities). I wouldn’t be surprised if a few Amish raise cattle but from what I can tell it’s not a dominant occupation (there are a few “farmers” listed, but it’s no more descriptive than that). I’d be interested to hear from anyone with fresher info.

          Here is the Montana Amish page if anyone’s interested:

          1. Rexford MT

            When I lived at Rexford about 20 years ago (the Amish community was known locally as the West Kootenai, since it is one the west side of the lake, right up next to the Canadian border) there were some Amish running a few cattle there. Nothing major, maybe 20? head for one family if I remember right. But I dont think any of them made their living solely off of cattle. Most were involved in logging, log furniture, and log home building in some way. Horse logging some, but also using some smaller equipment, and a few involved in helicopter logging, but obviously they hired the helicopter 🙂 (I think the rate was $400/hour at the time.)
            They had some buggies for local (in the Amish community itself), but they were only occasionally seen. A lot of bikes and walking since they live relatively close together. But a trip to Rexford was about 1-1.5 hours I think, in a motorized vehicle. It’s not a big community, maybe 15 families. Outside of working in the woods and a few cattle, not much work available. And the amount of land available for expansion is limited. The further one gets up into the mountains, the more expensive the land gets. Californians are noted for buying up the land at prices that make a man grimace …

            1. Horse logging v. Helicopter logging

              I enjoyed that contrast Mike…somehow fitting that Amish could be involved in both.

              Now if they figure out how to do Horse-helicopter logging, that’s when I’ll be impressed 🙂

              1. Both horse logging and helicopter logging were US Forest Service requirements for certain timber sales for ecological “low-impact” purposes. The helicopters obviously leave less tracks than the horses even. 🙂
                At that time you could buy a “helicopter-only” timber sale for a couple of dollars (they auction them off), since the cost of the helicopter rental was so high.

    4. Allyson L

      Slightly…. Yes when the females ride the are expected to wear full pants under their dress.
      My friends daughter is an avid rider and she said how hot it can get to ride in the summer.

      I am shocked to see Children and married folk at such an event. My friend whom is old order but from a higher church and I were discussing the rodeo and their church along with the daughters soon to be husbands church will not allow for children or the married couples to attend the rodeos.

    5. Nadege

      Nice pictures. Why do certain old order sects not allow children and married women at the rodeo?

    6. Brenda Henry

      I am wondering if they were actually Amish, or perhaps Mennonites, attending and participating in a rodeo?? In our Amish community, they would be shunned in a heartbeat for attending, much less participating, especially the lady in pants,in a rodeo. My Amish neighbor and I were just discussing this last week. She was talking about how she had always dreamed of going to a rodeo. I suppose there again, it depends on the community and area, but never here in West TN!

      1. Old Order Amish riders and rodeo attendees

        Another illustration of Amish diversity. There were probably Mennonites as well, but yes these were Amish riders, not sure that all were baptized members of the church, though there were certainly many Amish adults and families attending.

        A basic rule of thumb is that what is considered proper and acceptable in community A may be much different from community B. I think the folks in West TN are probably more conservative than the average Lancaster church.

    7. LeeAnn

      Thanks for posting Erik! I miss the rodeo days. I loved watching the barrel racing and the roping. The country days are those to keep close.

      Please post more of these photos. Takes me back home. I have seen and heard of the Amish girls wearing pants with their dresses. I have also seen other groups dressing like this to be out with the animals.

      1. Amish girl in trousers

        Glad you enjoyed it. I don’t see of much other choice as far as wear when you’re riding a horse in this way. Then again not all Amish would support this type of event or really encourage horse riding, which would eliminate the question of what should girls wear.

        As for Amish girls wearing pants with their dresses for certain tasks, see the last photo here:

        1. It should probably be underscored what you said about a (professional) rodeo being an event that is discouraged (prohibited?) for Amish people.

    8. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      cowboy games

      Thanks for explaining the diversity on the pants and participation in rodeo on the topic, everyone.
      I thought about it a second time and became curious, how do the Amish pronounce “rodeo”? Is it “Row-dee-oh” like I’ve often heard it, or “Row-day-oh” like the famous California Drive?
      On a family reunion trip to the Canadian prairies my family went to a rodeo in my Aunt and Uncle’s community, and my Uncle insisted I call it a “Row-day-oh”
      What do you say? what do the Amish who participate say?

      1. Shom I say the first, and so did the Amish folks in Lancaster. The second way of course sounds cooler 🙂

        1. Row-day-oh is the Spanish pronunciation. A rodeo in Spanish comes from the root “rod-” which means “round”. A rodeo is when you “round up” your cattle into the corral, which in the early days was, and in many cases still is, round in shape.
          “Corral” is another Spanish word, which has for its root “corr-“, which means “run.” A corral is a place for the animals to run around in (in comparison to a tight pen or a barn).

    9. Sharon

      Cattle Penning....

      The event is called “team penning” and can be quite addicting…success depends not only on the skill of the riders and horses, but also on getting a good “draw” on the cattle (a numbered group that is amenable to being driven to the pen). Just takes one squirrely one to mess up a run 🙂

      1. Team penning

        That’s what I liked about it Sharon…Mose told a funny story about how one group they had, had just been weaned…when the riders approached they all rushed the horses, thinking they were going after “mom” 🙂

        I also wondered how or if they should try to account for the cattle getting tired and easier to handle as the contest went on. They used the same animals the entire time.

        Thanks for the explanation.

    10. Alice Mary

      Gals in pants...

      Like SHOM, I was surprised to see the Amish woman in pants. I certainly understand it, though, and it brought back high school memories. We wore uniforms (skirts, blouses & blazers) in my all-girl Catholic high school. Most of us walked several blocks to school, so it was darn cold in winter, and students & parents complained. Sooo, the “good sisters” allowed us to wear pants—but under our skirts (modesty?)! Problem was, they insisted we remove them before walking into the school proper, which meant shedding them just inside the entry doors in front of the stairway to the 1st floor—doors opening and closing, public walking by, ALL BOYS school across the street—what were they thinking!?!

      Still,it looks pretty odd on an Amish woman, especially with the prayer kapp and apron, too. Culture clash!

      Fun photos! 🙂 (Did the “clown” survive unscathed?)

      Alice Mary

      1. I wore uniforms to school too Alice Mary, probably not unlike the ones you saw in yours. Funny story. Sometimes trying to get things “right” ends up making them worse.

        As for the clown, I didn’t see him take any shots, except for some eggs that were thrown at him. I wasn’t there the whole time though.

    11. Naomi Wilson

      Women's roles

      I just love how (so far as I can tell) the Amish have very specific gender roles, yet women are not treated as if they are “weak” or “delicate” or expected to be “ladylike.” I think I would have thrived in this type of environment as a teenager. As a young person, I was determined to be a wild tomboy, because it made me so angry when I was told that I shouldn’t perform physically demanding tasks (let’s not even go in to the way women are treated as if frail when pregnant- my more recent gripe). It seemed like only boys got to do the exciting stuff.

    12. George H.

      Interesting and funny, love the pix!

    13. Carolyn B

      Love the picture of the Amish cowgirl in red and wearing trousers. Were there many women competing in the rodeo?

      1. Carolyn, for the parts I saw, I’d say about a half-dozen young Amish ladies, give or take? There were also some non-Amish women competing as well.

    14. Kentucky Lady 717

      Well.well,well…I remember some time ago you had an article on here and I made a comment,re: women could not wear pants when they did work on the farm, and I believe someone said pants were not allowed and women could do anything in a dress that they could do in pants….and several people seemed a bit put out that I had made that remark….but now I guess it’s ok if they wear pants for this sport eh? But not to muck out a barn, or work in the fields !!!! just sayin………………

    15. Bill

      Amish rodeo

      the offer for the history paper would be haelpful

    16. Fascinated

      I was fascinated by the comments on this article regarding the woman wearing pants. Hasn’t anyone thought about what it’s like to ride a horse in your undies? Have a look at what “cowboys” wear when riding. I doubt that there is any issue at all about a woman wearing pants in this circumstance. That she was allowed to participate is interesting though.

    17. Trish in Indiana

      I live in Elkhart County Indiana, where one of the biggest events of the year is the weeklong county fair. (Not to brag or anything, but the Elkhart County 4H Fair is often the biggest or second-biggest county fair in the United States.) Many Amish families (as well as many Amish teens) attend the fair, and the rodeo seems to be one of their favorites. No Amish compete in the rodeo, that I have ever seen, although some Amish men compete in the draft horse pull that is held before it.