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Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo Kicks Off

And bucks and broncs. The 12th annual rendition of the rodeo began in San Juan Capistrano Saturday. There's still time to catch the second half.

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story misidentified the owners of Rancho Mission Viejo.

Rancho Mission Viejo, Orange County’s last working ranch, launched its 12th annual rodeo Saturday at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park in San Juan Capistrano, the richest two-day rodeo in the country.

More than 3,500 onlookers watched bulls and horse bronc, and men rope and tie the bulls. The cowboys rode bareback and with saddles as they competed for $200,000 in prize money, making the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo the richest two-day rodeo in the country.

Because of the purse, only the top-ranked cowboys and beasts are invited.

The origins of rodeo actually date back to the early history of California. During those days the Vaqueros would meet about once a year and practice their cowboy skills, according to press materials the ranch provided.  

A 10-year-old bucking bull called Bring It was ridden by James Dalton. While the average age of a healthy bucking bull is anywhere from 3-6 years old, this bull is unique because he has the same energy of a bull half his age.

"You will really want to look for this bull this weekend," said Lisa Freese, the only child of head cowboy Gilbert Aguirre, while giving a private tour of cow camp on Friday.  

Freese was brought up on the ranch, land the O’Neills, Moisos and the Averys have held since 1882. The three families are preparing to celebrate their 130th anniversary soon.

One horse, known as Hat Stomper because of his great stamina and undefeated title, is 6 years old.

"Not a guy or a girl can stay on that horse so far,” said Diane Gaynor. Gaynor has worked with Rancho Mission Viejo for approximately 30 years. He was ridden by Luke Butterfield Saturday.

And the horse won again.

In addition to the bull- and horse-riding, the rodeo features tie-down roping, team roping and steer wrestling. So if you're in the mood for some fun, action, western entertainment and want to support these cowboys and enjoy yourself today.

The cost of tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for children ages 4-12. Children under the age of 3 get in for free. All proceeds will go to various charities, including and the .

Patch Editor Penny Arévalo contributed to this report.

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