Contenders take on the world’s best at The American Rodeo with $1 million at stake.

It’s a baseball stadium most days, with a diamond of dirt 90 feet long on each side; however, Globe Life Field will be transformed for the American Western Weekend on March 8-9, 2024, as the rodeo world descends on Arlington, Texas, for one of the biggest Western sports and culture events of the year.

Globe Life Field truly becomes the field of dreams as contenders take on the world’s best at The American Rodeo with $1 million at stake.
Tie-down roper Ty Harris competes for the $1 million purse at The American Rodeo in 2023. Photo courtesy Teton Ridge.

“There is literally something for everyone,” says James Miller, senior vice president of Teton Ridge, which owns The American Western Weekend. “Whether you have been immersed in the rodeo world your whole life or this is your very first event, you will walk away hooked.”

Country music star Luke Bryan, the five-time winner of entertainer of the year, will perform Friday night. Additionally, fans will see fashion and food, bucking bulls and saddle broncs, and performance horses. They also might experience a bit of sports magic — David taking down Goliath in front of a packed house with the opportunity to rake in up to $1.1 million in the process.

Last year, tie-down roper Ty Harris entered The American ranked 67th in the world. He faced off against the top five tie-down ropers in the world as one of five “contenders.”

Leading up to The American, Harris practiced for 18 days — an eternity in the rodeo world, where athletes often compete multiple times a week — and entered the event with the confidence he could pull a massive upset.

“Those 18 days were very, very sharp, and I just felt like I was exactly where I needed to be,” Harris says.

Harris went last out of 10 competitors — an enviable starting position as it meant he knew exactly what time he needed to progress to the final round, though the wait for his turn was painstaking. To calm himself, he repeated a mantra, a veritable “to-do list” of his sport: hit the barrier, get the neck, tie him down.

As he waited, saddle bronc and bull rider Stetson Wright walked past him and said two words — “Go win” — that sent a chill down Harris’ spine. Those were the last two words that Harris’ beloved grandmother, his biggest supporter, said to him before she died.

“I had so many things on my mind,” Harris says. “When he said that, it was like I was completely locked in.”

Harris soaks in the win at The American Rodeo in 2023. Photos courtesy Teton Ridge.

Harris nailed both rounds to win $623,000 — more in one day than he won in the previous five years. Breakaway roper Jackie Crawford also won her event, so she and Harris split the $1 million.

The win provided Harris with life-changing money and life-changing confidence.

“The change mentally was just amazing,” Harris says. “I just felt way different.”

He performed differently, too. He jumped from 67th in money earned before The American to fifth before the National Finals Rodeo, and that’s not counting the $623,000 he won at The American.

When he struggled during that surge, he called up video of The American to remind himself what he was capable of. He’ll carry that memory for the rest of his career and beyond.

It’s not just competitors who come home with strong memories but also the fans. The American is a must-attend event for any fan of Western sports and culture, Miller says, because the best of the best convene on the biggest stage in rodeo.

“Electric doesn’t even begin to describe the momentum over the course of the weekend,” Miller says. “Knowing you are watching the precision talent of the very best in the performance horse world on Friday night at The American Performance Horseman and then could see a rodeo athlete’s life changed the very next night [at] The American Rodeo is such a force. It creates a momentum that fans can be a part of and really feel like they are part of every moment.”

Globe Life Field truly becomes the field of dreams as contenders take on the world’s best at The American Rodeo with $1 million at stake.
In addition to rodeo, The American Western Weekend features top Western performance horse riders from the NCHA, NRCHA and NRHA. Photo courtesy Teton Ridge.

What: The American Western Weekend comprises two marquee events: The American Rodeo and The American Performance Horseman, both owned by Teton Ridge.

When: March 8-9, 2024

Where: Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas

Tickets: americanrodeo.com/tickets

The American Rodeo: The top five athletes in eight disciplines will compete against five “contenders,” described by event organizers as everyday hardworking cowboys and cowgirls and those who fell outside of the top five in the end-of-year standings.

The contenders earn their spots by working their way through a tournament-style format at the regional level, culminating in The American Contender Tournament Finals on February 10, 2024, at Taylor Telecom Arena in Abilene, Texas.

The payout is potentially the biggest in Western sports: If a contender wins his or her event, he or she takes home $1 million, plus another $100,000 for winning the event. If more than one contender wins their respective events, they split the $1 million, and if no contenders win, the money carries over to the next year. In 2022, bull rider Kaique Pacheco won $2.1 million.

The American Performance Horseman: The top five competitors from the National Reined Cow Horse Association, the National Cutting Horse Association and the National Reining Horse Association are molded into five teams and paired with top Quarter Horses for a competition unlike anything else in the industry.


This article was originally published in the March 2024 issue of Western Horseman.

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