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Updated: 3/11/2010 - 4:10 AM



For Calverton man, rodeo is a way of life
  6 comments below

COURTESY PHOTO
For Erik Hartenstein of Calverton, rodeo is a way of life.
It is Erik Hartenstein's hope that someday he can impart to his newborn son the same love of rodeo competition that his parents instilled in him as an 8-year-old growing up in Nesconset.

Some three decades later, Hartenstein, 41, a resident of Calverton, is still enjoying the competition as a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association's First Frontier Circuit. The circuit includes events in states from Maine down the Atlantic seaboard to Virginia. Hartenstein has also participated in rodeos as far south as Florida and as far west as Wyoming.

Between himself and his wife, Shannon, who competes in the Eastern Chapter of the Women's Professional Rodeo Association, Hartenstein estimates they have friends in 20 states who share a love of the sport. "Every weekend is like a vacation," he said.

Hartenstein and his wife have a camper that can hold three or four horses which they use to drive to events and stay in during the occasional overnight trip. While not every rodeo competitor rides his or her own horse, Hartenstein does, and the amount of time he and his wife spend around horses has been put to good use.

"We're just really good evaluators of horses," Hartenstein said. "Our horses tend to be at the better end of the spectrum."

How does he find the time to do this?

For this cowboy, rodeo is a working vacation.
"I own my own business, so I'm spoiled," Hartenstein said.

As the owner of Best Temp Central, a company that does air-conditioning and heating sales, installation and service, Hartenstein is free to make his own hours. That leaves some of his weekday evenings free as well. If there is such a thing as a homebound mini-vacation, Hartenstein takes them three or four nights a week when he heads out to the three-acre facility he built on his property to practice for his events -- tie-down roping and team roping.

Both, he said, have turned into speed events that last an average of 10 or 11 seconds per rider. In team roping, riders work in pairs. One ropes the calf by the horns and the other ropes the legs and ties them up. Tie-down roping works similarly, but with one rider and a smaller calf.

"It's a controversial event," Hartenstein said. "There's a lot of people who think it's harming the animal when in reality it's really not. For someone who's not educated, it could look traumatic."

The calf is roped and tied, a timer goes off and then the calf is untied, he explained.

"For 10 seconds, a calf is working," Hartenstein said. "And the rest of the week they're eating grass with their buddies."

Hartenstein often finishes in the top 10 or 12 riders in these events, he said. But he said he cannot compete with some of the riders he has seen out west. Those riders, Hartenstein said, can make a living off rodeos. "They're at a different level," he said.

While he enjoys the competition involved, Hartenstein likes the family atmosphere of rodeo competition just as much. He and his wife both compete and the other families they have met on the circuit operate the same way.

Soon though, there may be a third Hartenstein making the weekly rides up and down the coast.

"I'm hoping I can teach him," Hartenstein said of his son.

And if his son someday decides to follow in his footsteps as a rodeo rider?

"That would be great," said Hartenstein.

jwilliams@northshoresun.com

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