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Video: Trail Riders Preserve Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo Tradition

The annual event starts on Tuesday. And some cowboys and cowgirls traveled to NRG Stadium on horses and covered wagons.

The weekday lunch time rush hour is kicking in. The traffic on Highway 249 in Tomball has squeezed down to just one lane. Drivers peer curiously out their windows as they make way for a dozen horse-drawn wagons.

The Sam Houston Trail Riders are passing through town. Every year, they make the 70-mile journey from Montgomery County to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

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The Sam Houston Trail Riders as they break camp in Tomball.

This year, 13 groups will ride in from all over Texas. They travel by day and camp through the night. It’s a way to honor the history and pride of the Old West.

Founded in 1955, Sam Houston is the second oldest trail ride in the rodeo. They have about 250 members. Each one does their part to make the journey run smoothly. Robert Myrick, 22, works as a marshal. He helps divert cars as the group passes through city streets. Sometimes, it can get tense.

“We get some unruly people from time to time, some that just don’t really understand the whole concept of trail ride and they’re impatient, but most of the time we get a lot of happy faces,” Myrick says.

The marshal was nervous when his dad first asked him to give trail riding a try three years ago. He still considers himself a rookie, but has gotten more comfortable. He says his favorite part is riding into Memorial Park for the Rodeo kickoff celebration.

“Seeing everybody come out and just look at us is what just surprised me,” Myrick says. “They’re reaction to just seeing all of us, they’re just amazed and in awe of somebody on a horse going through a city street.”

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The Sam Houston Trail Riders on State Highway 249 in Tomball.

John Churchill has been with the Sam Houston Trail Ride for 21 years. He says a lot has changed. Sprawling urban areas can be tricky to navigate on horseback. And some of their old camp sites have been replaced with shopping centers. But the booming population across Greater Houston also means more people come out to see the riders.

“That really kind of expands the experience,” Churchill says. “We get more spectators now all along the trail rather than just when we get inside the city limits of Houston.”

Churchill says that to him, that’s what trail riding is all about. He wants to give as many Texans as possible a glimpse of this western tradition.

“Three or four years ago, I made contact with this young man. I pointed right at him and said: ‘Howdy partner, how you doin’?’ and his eyes just got big as saucers,” Churchill says. “He said: ‘Daddy, that cowboy spoke to me!’ That was a very special memory. That’s what I was trying to accomplish because I remember being in his position.”

Even if he doesn’t inspire every kid to become a cowboy, Churchill says he just hopes to get them curious, and it seems like his efforts are paying off.

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The view of motorists driving by trail riders on their way to Houston for the rodeo.

The group stopped by the Houston Northwest Church on Highway 249 in Tomball. They were met by some fans, like 4-year-old Drew Johnston. She says her favorite part was feeding the horses and petting them.

Drew’s mother, Alyssa Johnston, says she grew up watching the trail rides herself. She says they help bring the rodeo festivities to all parts of the region.

“We’re not in the city, so we don’t get down to the rodeo as much as we like,” Johnston says. “So it’s nice to see it out in the suburbs with us and get a piece of it out here too.”

 

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Tomeka Weatherspoon

Tomeka Weatherspoon

Senior Producer

Tomeka Weatherspoon is an Emmy-award winning producer. She produces segments, the weekly television program Arts InSight, the short film showcase The Territory and a forthcoming digital series on innovation. Originally from the Midwest, Tomeka studied convergence journalism from the world’s first journalism school at the University of Missouri. She has...

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