HAMMOND | The littlest rodeo rider in Hammond on Saturday was only 2 years old.
Tegan Ford, son of rodeo organizer and sponsor Tim Ford, waited patiently to ride his pony in the junior barrel racing event.
“We’re starting him young,” said Ford, of the T-Ford Performance Horse Ranch in Gary.
Ford is used to bringing horses and kids together. He and his wife, Tiffany, teach horseback riding and rodeo skills to local families.
Saturday was the first group’s first rodeo event in Hammond.
The first annual All Horse Rodeo drew a large crowd to Memorial Park. Events included flag racing, pole bending along with relay and barrel racing. Children and adults participated.
Ford, who calls himself a second-generation cowboy, started working with horses on his father’s ranch. It helped keep him off the streets, he said, and he aims to show his students “another part of life” by bringing them to work and ride on his ranch.
The competition included Ford’s students and horse owners from as far away as Chicago.
Felicia Sanders, 14, and her brother Tim, 11, of Chicago, brought their horses Sharon and Princess for the plugs race and relay. Felicia has been riding all her life, she said.
“It’s fun,” she said of the rodeo. “It’s competition, and you bond with your horse.”
Dorian Atman, 11, and his father, Jamel, brought Dorian’s quarter horse mare Dakota from Kankakee.
“I do rodeos with my dad,” Dorian said. Horseback riding is “better than sitting around, and it’s fun.”
His favorite event was the relay.
“It’s the one that the most people do, and (you win) the most money," Dorian said. "It’s the most popular.”
All the rodeo events involved speed and time trials, making them audience pleasers.
Ford's ranch sponsored the rodeo along with Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. and local businesses and churches. Ford hopes to make the rodeo an annual happening in Hammond, he said.