It might not look like much to the average Pendleton resident that drives past it everyday, but to a cowboy the Round-Up Arena can be a pretty imposing figure.
With its sloped grass infield and nearly a century of history coursing through its veins, the Pendleton Round-Up serves as an important proving ground for cowboys, and girls, young and old.
"You hear lots of stories, scarey stories - horses flipping over on the grass,"?said steer wrestler and tie-down roper Josh Peek of when he was beginning his rodeo career and had yet to experience the Round-Up first hand.
Peek, who is in the middle of another strong season and was No. 4 in the PRCA?all-around standings through August, said because of the danger involved several cowboys choose not to enter the Round-Up.
"It's dangerous every time you run off that hill or one of those guys gets on a bull on that grass, anything can happen. If you're not aggressive and confident in what you're doing you can get hurt real easy," he said, adding he actually thrives on the added pucker factor. "I?enjoy the kind of rodeos that are different, that are tough. It's not just about running and jumping it's about riding your horse, it's a cowboy's rodeo."
While the Round-Up might not be suited for every cowboy, it also takes a special kind of horse to deal with the grass infield according to 2008 World All-Around Champion Trevor Brazile, who is on track to win a record-tying seventh all-around title this year.
"The conditions are a little tough and you've got to draw good and hopefully have a horse that is conditioned to the environment there,"?he said. "I?usually don't use my own horses. They tend to slide out a little bit too much."
Brazile said it is common for riders to borrow a horse or have one in their stable that is specifically used for the unique surface. While it may not be the horse they would choose the rest of their season, having sure feet underneath them can be the difference between a winning run and a season-ending injury.
As the Round-Up enters its 99th year, Peek said the history of the rodeo is another big draw.
"It's coming on its 99th year, that's a lot of history and that's probably one of the coolest things, being part of that tradition,"?he said. "That rodeo hasn't changed in 99 years and just being able to be a part of that history is a really cool thing."
Whoever wins the all-around this year will get to be the beginning of a portion of the Round-Up's history as the first name to go on the new all-around trophy.
Each winner has their name added to the base of the trophy until one cowboy wins it three times and gets to keep it.
Cash Myers completed his third all-around win last year and was sixth in the world all-around standings through August.