By HARRY CLARKE
BOB Holder’s story is well known in rodeo circles – a veteran of the game who, now 90, seems to defy the laws of nature by continuing to compete professionally in one of the toughest sports in the world.
Now the Australian rodeo community’s collective belief, that Holder ‘would have to be the world’s oldest professional cowboy’, has been validated.
The International Professional Rodeo Association recently confirmed to the man from Cootmundra NSW that he is indeed the most senior rodeo regular competitor in the world.
Saddling up for the team roping event in Longreach this weekend as part of the inaugural Road to Rodeo, Holder is two months shy of his 91st birthday.
It’s been 64 years since he last competed at the Longreach arena. This time around, he’s recovering from a hip replacement that he had just eight weeks ago.
“I just love rodeo and if I stopped I’d frizzle up and die, I think,” Holder told the Caller, from the back of his gelding at the Longreach Showgrounds.
“I just enjoy doing it. I enjoy going out there and catching that steer, and turning him off and getting him roped up.
“I enjoy riding my horse. I enjoy the crowd and the way they respond to things like that.”
The amount that Holder travels for a man of his age is remarkable, let alone the incredible physical ability he displays in the rodeo arena time and time again.
Together with his daughter, reigning Mount Isa Rodeo open barrel race champion Kerrie Holder (pictured), and other rodeo family and friends, Holder has driven close to 5,000km on his current rodeo circuit.
He’ll have a spell back at Cootamundra following the Road to Rodeo event, before hitting the road again in June for a journey of about 15,000km.
This year he plans to compete in 25 rodeos.
“I enjoy the people,” Holder said.
“They’re the most wonderful people in the world, rodeo people, and the crowds that get to it are great. All of the organisations concerned are great. The stock are good. They’re tough, but they’re good.”
Rodeo has taken Holder around the world. A former champion bull rider and buckjump bronco rider, he’s competed “everywhere” including Canada and Mexico, and has almost lost count of the number of times he’s attended the USA National Finals in Las Vegas (23 times).
Does he plan to ever slow down?
“Not yet. I’m too young. Later on I might… four, five, ten years time,” he said.
“But I don’t know what I’d do. I’d have to go on the old age pension.
“I think a lot more of them (senior folk) should do it. They’d last a lot longer, instead of sitting around reading the newspaper and talking about people and spilling their breakfast down their front.”