The Cowboy Festival takes to the ring at O’Keefe Ranch Saturday and Sunday.

The Cowboy Festival takes to the ring at O’Keefe Ranch Saturday and Sunday.

Cowboys saddle up at O’Keefe

Sights and sounds of ranching come alive at O’Keefe Ranch’s Cowboy Festival Saturday and Sunday

The sights and sounds of ranching come alive at O’Keefe Ranch’s Cowboy Festival.

The historic site hosts the annual event Saturday and Sunday.

“Every summer, cowboys and cowgirls with their faithful horses demonstrate the true skills of the working cowboy,” said Ken Mather, ranch curator.

“Teams of cowboys from ranches all across the province converge on the ranch to compete in the Ranch Rodeo, where they highlight the incredible working relationship of horse and rider that has been a part of ranching in B.C. since the 1860s.”

For spectators familiar with pro rodeo, the ranch rodeo seems quite strange.

“On the ranches, the work of handling cattle is not about getting the job done in record time or staying on a bucking horse for eight seconds,” said Mather.

“It’s about caring for the cattle in a way that causes the least amount of stress to the animal that, after all, represents the cowboy’s and rancher’s livelihood. Cowboys become the masters of handling cattle gently without running off the pounds.”

Mather says spectators are always impressed with the relationship between the cowboy and horse.

“Most of these cowboys spend the summer up in the high country working the cattle in the summer ranges, where the only reliable help in times of trouble is their horse,” he said.

As part of its mandate to preserve and present the story of ranching, O’Keefe Ranch has been hosting the Cowboy Festival since 1992.

“It also features a working ranch horse competition, which allows a cowboy to demonstrate the responsiveness and skill of his or her horse, and a reata long throw roping contest, where roping skills are tested,” said Mather.

“Alongside of these events can be found cowboy entertainment and other activities related to ranching culture.”

On Saturday, gates open at 10 a.m., with the ranch horse competition from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. There is then the cowboy skills competition from 2 to 4 p.m., and a family dance from 7 to 10 a.m.

On Sunday, cowboy church runs from 9 to 10 a.m., followed by the  ranch horse competition from 10:30 a.m. to noon and a farrier demonstration from noon to 2 p.m. The ranch rodeo is from 2 to 4 p.m.

For more information, go to www.okeeferanch.ca