As Texas agriculture events go, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo — which drew a total attendance of 2.4 million people across 20 days in March — was a must-do for state Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and his staff.
The agency sponsored an educational booth at the rodeo. In addition, there were plenty of opportunities for speaking and award presentations for Miller and his staff. This year, Miller was on hand to promote Texas agriculture and even presented an award at a winery competition.
But Miller had more than an industry interest. He also had a personal one.
He had three horses competing in tie-down roping events: Big Clown, Big Powdie Bars and Big Playgun, according to Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo media coordinator Sarah Poole. Two of the three, Big Powdie Bars and Big Playgun, won cash prizes — "premiums," in the event's parlance — based on their high scores.
It is not known how much prize money Miller collected or how much he shared with the horses' riders. "With regards to horse-show premiums, they are paid to the owner of the animal. We have no knowledge of agreements beyond that," Poole said. She would not reveal the total amount of prizes awarded for the two winning horses' performances.
Miller did not compete as a rider, as he did in Mississippi's Dixie National Livestock Show and Rodeo in February, a trip that was paid for with state funds but later repaid by Miller. Both that trip and one taken to Oklahoma for a pain injection called a "Jesus Shot" are under investigation by the Texas Rangers.
Miller's travel records have not been released by the agency to The Texas Tribune. Calls for information about his trips to the rodeo were not immediately returned. Miller, who had hip surgery this week, is on medical leave.
Reporter Madlin Mekelburg contributed to this report.