In San Antonio, the dirt “is laser-levelled and checked for an even depth,” Owens writes. But not every part of the floor in San Antonio is identical. Work crews, operating enormous earth movers, know that “adequate depth and soft padding helps reduce the pressure on joints and muscles as the athletes compete in their respective events,” she writes, and that different sports stress animals and humans in different ways. “In the riding events… the dirt is packed more firmly near the chutes so animals do not slip as they are bucking and have better traction,” she writes. “In the timed events, specifically, the barrel race, the dirt is looser around the barrels so it gives when the horses make the turn.” This year's festivities begin Feb. 7.