In steer wrestling — often referred to as “bulldogging" in the rodeo world — a cowboy starts the event mounted on a horse behind a barrier. Then he chases down a quarter-ton steer with the help of another cowboy knnown as a “hazer," who is also on horseback and assists in keeping the steer running in a straight line.
As the contestant overtakes the steer, he leans from his horse, grabs the animal and maneuvers it to the ground on its side, with all four legs pointing in the same direction. When properly executed, the fast and furious event is over in just a few seconds.
It is also Radabaugh's passion.
“Steer wrestling is my main event," says Radabaugh, a member of the UNLV rodeo team. “It's the No. 1 thing I do and I love."
And even though he is still a young man, he has gained considerable experience in the event. Radabaugh started participating in peewee rodeo when he was a boy. He won Oregon high school state championships in 2007, 2008 and 2009 in addition to playing football and basketball at Crook County High before graduating in 2009. He also trained the horse he rode to his high school state championships, along with Putts, the quarter horse he rode while qualifying for the circuit finals and the one that he plans to ride this week in Redmond.
Now competing against professional cowboys, Radabaugh has noticed the increased level of competition from that in the lower ranks.
“Going from high school to college was a step, but going from college and amateur rodeo to the PRCA, it's a big step," Radabaugh observes. “It's kind of mind-blowing how much faster, how much you need to be more on top of what you do. It's a whole different game."
As for his own plans to turn professional, Radabaugh says he intends to keep his permit in 2013. A cowboy needs to earn $1,000 in winnings in a year to fill his permit, Radabaugh explains; after that, he can apply for his pro card. But with school to finish up — he expects to complete a degree in history at UNLV next fall — he is going to wait a little longer before chasing rodeos. His goal is also to work the family cattle ranch, on which the Radabaughs raise calves to sell.
“When I get out of school, then I can go, because there's so many rodeos that you can go to that I cannot when I'm down here at school," he points out.
And as for this weekend, Radabaugh plans to heed some advice from his father, Christian Radabaugh Sr., who emphasizes consistency in performance.
“He says, 'It's one run at a time,' " the younger Radabaugh says. “So that's what I'm going to do. ... I just want to make every run the best I can."
But first, that long drive awaits.