HorseFair

The crowd files in for the start of Saturday's night rodeo.

For the average person, the word rodeo conjures up the imagery of Hollywood’s Wild West: Tough, laconic cowboys, bucking horses, and whirling lassos against a stark, sepia-toned desert. Outside of the equine community, it’s not well-known that Madison, Wisconsin hosts one of the nation’s premier horse fairs — or that the modern rodeo isn’t just a boys’ club anymore.

This past weekend, the Alliant Energy Center hosted the Midwest Horse Fair, one of the largest horse fairs in the country and a Madison tradition since 1979. While the fair offers a full three days of activities, the event’s centerpiece is the professional rodeo. Alongside classic “roughstock” events like bull riding and saddle bronc riding, the rodeo features barrel racing.