PERRY -- From all around Georgia, the high-schoolers came to Middle Georgia.
Drawn by bucking broncs, goat tying and barrel racing, these students rose to the top to qualify for the Georgia High School Rodeo finals.
Held at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter, they vied for a top four spot, which would land them in the National High School Rodeo Finals held in Rock Springs, Wyoming.
The theme Friday night was “tough enough for pink” with most of the participants wearing everything from pink shirts to pink ribbons in their horses’ tails.
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A few local contestants were aiming for the top prize, trying to follow in their older siblings’ footsteps.
Shelby Rey Harvard, Olivia Tacy and Cheyenne Richards all have been riding at a young age.
Two of them have very large shoes to fill. Both Harvard and Richards have older brothers who have competed, and won, at the national finals.
Dalton Richards won in 2010. Caleb Harvard won in 2005 for steer wrestling.
“It’s a lifestyle,” Shelby Rey Harvard, who just graduated from Rutland High School, said.
All three girls have been riding horses since before they could remember.
Harvard’s dad, Walter “Hoss” Harvard, said she was horse showing in pee-wee barrels when she was 2 years old.
She still competes in the barrel racing competition for the high school rodeos though her favorite event is roping.
“I’m a little roping girl,” she said.
Cheyenne Richards, a 17-year-old from Hawkinsville, said her favorite, and best, event is goat tying.
Her goat-tying horse, Black, knows his job and stood quietly at the gate waiting for the signal it was his turn to go.
“It just gets more exciting every year,” Richards said.
This year was especially exciting for Tacy, a 16-year-old First Presbyterian Day School student.
She decided to run for rodeo queen as well as compete in her regular events.
“I have to get my jeans dyed and give a speech,” Tacy said, though she was most nervous about performing the horsemanship pattern where the rider has to guide the horse through a set pattern.
Although she originally did not want to run for queen, she said she was “mombushed” by several other mothers at the rodeo to enter into the queen contest.
Tacy’s older sisters competed in the high school rodeos and she was hooked early on.
“It’s something, when you get into it, you just get addicted,” she said.