Correction appended

EDGEWOOD, N.M. (KRQE) – The East Mountain Cowboy Church is calling the event it hosted Saturday morning near Edgewood a “protest.” Breakaway roping is only one of the events that had more than 100 cowboys and cowgirls saddling up, trying to earn a buckle. Some were competing for the first time in a while.

“This is my first rodeo since everything started, so me and my horses are trying to get back on track,” said Taylor White a 17-year-old competing in breakaway roping, and barrel racing. The East Mountain Cowboy Church hosted the rodeo on a sixty-acre lot in Edgewood. The lot was empty until this week when members of the church built the arena.

Pastor Curt Miller says the rodeo is a protest to how the state is responding to the pandemic. “We don’t like some of the things that are going on when it comes to holding kids back and families back,” said Miller.

New Mexico State Police say they previously met up with Pastor Miller to educate him about the public health order as it pertains to mass gatherings. Masks were encouraged at the rodeo, but nobody was enforcing the mandate. “We’re not going to force people, and I can promise you the majority of people, we’ve told them to wear masks if they’re comfortable,” said Miller.

During last week’s church service, the associate pastor told the congregation they’d have a code word to tell protestors to put on their masks if law enforcement did show up.

“If I see them coming, I’m going to say I was riding the red roan horse the other day. That’ll be code for put your masks, they’re coming!” said Associate Pastor David Crosby, during one of their church services.

Correction: In an earlier version of this post, the lead image was of a rodeo from Tijeras, the lead image has been changed to the Edgewood rodeo from Saturday.