Rodeoing is bred into the bucking broncs and bulls at the Steamboat Springs Rodeo as deeply as it is bred into the woman providing them, stock contractor Dona Vold Larsen of the Broken Arrow Rodeo Company.
Vold Larsen learned her trade under the watchful eye of her father, Harry Vold, one of North America's premier stock contractors. Although she has worked as a public school teacher and college professor, ranching and rodeoing were too deeply in her system to leave them for long.
She struck out on her own as a stock contractor in 1995 and in 1998, took over the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series, which was previously run by her brother, Doug Vold.
Her other career credits include running the Cody Nite Rodeo, a summer series that involves daily rodeos for 90 straight days, and the Snowmass summer rodeo series. But Steamboat holds a special place in her heart.
"I like Steamboat the very best," the Casper, Wyo., resident said. "The people and the tourists in Steamboat treasure the West and hold it in great reverence. It's a pleasure to put on a rodeo for them."
Being a woman in a traditionally male career has mattered little in developing a successful career, she said.
"I was born into it," she said. "These generations of men are very open to women in every aspect of every career. In the rodeo business, people tend to be very open-minded, as long as you can get the job done."
And Vold Larsen has proven that she can get the job done.
She and her husband, Bill, and daughter, Tami, are deeply involved in putting on the Steamboat rodeo -- from breeding the roughstock used in the rodeo to feeding and caring for the animals to managing secretarial duties and overseeing safety in the chutes on performance nights.
On Friday and Saturday nights, Tami shifts seamlessly from the day-to-day animal care she does during the week to running the secretary's office and working with the night's contestants.
Bill Larsen works as the "flankman" at the rodeo, supervising safety in the chutes and preparing the bulls and broncos for their performances. He also is at the head of Broken Arrow's breeding program, selectively breeding animals to produce the most talented bucking bulls and horses possible.
This summer, all but one of the bulls performing in Steamboat Springs are Broken Arrow "homebreds."
They include Dippin Dodge City, a young bull that has shown great potential, as well as National Finals Rodeo veteran performers Hard Copy and Palo Verde. Another bull, Skoal Panda, wasn't bred by Broken Arrow, but he has long been a marquee name in its string. Panda was unridden through the first half of 2004, meaning no cowboy was able to last a full 8 seconds on him.
"These (veteran bulls) just keep staying strong," Vold Larsen said. "They're bred to buck and we keep getting a new crop every year."
Two years ago, the Larsens got into the horse breeding business as well, but because they give the young horses four years to grow physically mature enough to perform safely, rodeo fans will have to wait to see the first crop of homebreds perform in Steamboat Springs.
It is the quality of that livestock, as well as the quality of the staff at the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo, that help ensure a first-class rodeo experience, Vold Larsen said.
"We are truly blessed with a fantastic staff in Steamboat," she said. "They know what they are doing. They're very loyal, very faithful, and they're just like a family."