Tiny tots triumphant in the saddle
Dickinson Youth Rodeo hosts its 16th annual event featuring children ages 0 to 13 in barrel racing, pole bending, sheep riding, breakaway roping and more.
DICKINSON — Toddlers and teenagers alike hopped into their saddles with glee at the 16th Annual Dickinson Youth Rodeo at Stark County Fairgrounds on Saturday. Cowgirls and cowboys of all different experience levels competed for trophies and prizes against a picturesque backdrop of rolling green hills and a cloudless blue sky in western North Dakota on June 18.
With sunburnt cheeks and sweaty foreheads, the children groomed and mounted their ponies as the jingling clanking of little spurred boots raced across the arena.
Children in the 0 to 4-year-old age group kicked off the show with goat tail untying. One after the other, they bounced in their saddles as their ponies trotted to the center of the arena where they dismounted and made a speedy attempt to untie an orange ribbon from a bellowing goat. Calder Ross had the fastest time out of 17 contestants in the age group.
The 5 to 7-year-old daredevils took their shots next in sheep riding, where many quickly tumbled to the dirt. Hesston Scott hung on for dear life a little longer than most and took the gold in the age group.
For four-year-old Clay Saunders, the rodeo was his first as a competitor and his second sheep ride ever. Over the past few years, he has practiced roping his dummy calf and riding his pony Jack to develop his cowboy skills. One day, he wants to participate in the breakaway roping competition.
Brothers Holland (age 6) and Hesston Garling enjoyed encouraging each other and working as a team in some events.
“Rodeo is super fun because you are going fast on the horse and sometimes it’s scary,” Hesston Garling said,” “You have to push yourself until you can believe in yourself.”
Four-year-old barrel racer Winnie Vettel experienced just that…a scary ride. Her horse Hickory took a tight turn around the first barrel and she flew from the saddle into the dirt. After taking a deep breath and collecting herself, Vettel climbed back into the saddle and finished the pattern. Her bravery and commitment inspired a small crowd of spectators who rose to their feet in applause.
Vettel began riding at age two with the help of her parents and at age three, she was riding all by herself.
“Rodeo teaches a lot of responsibility, determination and hard work,” Courtney Vettel, Winnie’s mother said.
Vettel wasn’t the only cowgirl whose performance inspired others Saturday. Twelve-year-old Willow Vohs was blazing hot throughout the competition, taking first in the breakaway roping, barrels, goat tying and the flag race in the 11 to 13 age group.
The young cowgirl was unstoppable in the arena, roping her steer in 3.929 seconds and gliding through a perfect barrel pattern in 18.848 seconds on her horse Flower. Vohs’s little sister also competes in rodeo and together they trained Flower.
“We’ve been practicing a lot and we’re trying to be perfect,” Vohs said. “I ride with my horse as one. We are a team and I try to push both of us.”
Several competitors in the 11 to 13 age group ran 18 to 20-second barrel race patterns, which is only a few seconds longer than the times most high school and college girls finish with. For as young as some of these kids were, their ability was jaw dropping. Infants like Suede Buchanan, who are getting their feet wet in rodeo already, have incredible potential to be dangerously talented in the future.