Editor, County Press
REFUGIO COUNTY — Long before the crack of dawn when most of their classmates are still in deep slumber, before time to set off for school, and before eating breakfast, four young county teens commence their daily chores. The day begins early on the rural ranches they call home.
Lacie Beall, Courtney Myers, Dalton Brown and Cameron Loveday arise early to feed and water their horses and take care of any need that may have arisen since the previous evening.
The well-being and health of their horses are woven into their everyday lives like a colorful tapestry – each equestrian partner harbors its own personality and style as well as playing a key role in their lives as high school rodeo competitors.
“Your horse is your best friend; you’re closer to your horse because you’re with them every day and spend a lot of time with them,” Dalton says.
This Saturday, the four teens will load their horses in trailers and head for Abilene to compete in the Texas High School Rodeo Association State Championships from June 10-17.
More than 800 high school cowboys and cowgirls from all over the state and parts of Oklahoma, Louisiana, New Mexico and Arkansas will vie for the title of state champion in their event. The winners will advance to the national finals in Rock Springs, Wyo.
Each of the 10 regions of Texas sends its top 10 in each of the events — barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, breakaway roping, calf roping, team roping, steer dogging, bull riding, bareback riding and cutting.
Since September, each student has earned enough points to compete at state.
The youths compete in a different sports. Lacie ties goats; Dalton ropes calves; and Courtney and Dalton are partners in team roping –Courtney is the header and Dalton, the heeler. Courtney is also a breakaway roper.
Cameron is in 5th place; Courtney and Dalton are in 10th place in team roping and Courtney is in 5th in breakaway roping, and Lacie is in 13th place.
“Courtney’s a good roper,” says Daltonw.
Not one of the kids remembers the first time they rode a horse because each one has been riding longer than their brain began to record memories.
“I remember seeing Lacie for the first time on a big black horse at a rodeo in Gonzales,” Courtney says.
Both girls were barely in elementary school.
“That was Herman,” Lacie replies. “He died five or six years ago. He was 32.”
Dalton rode his first horse, Dolly, for 11 years. The mare died at 43. She was a gift from his Uncle Nittie Brown when the horse was 32.
His new horse is named Sweet – Dalton didn’t chose the name, the vet did.
“I really like her; she’s a good horse,” Dalton says.
Cameron’s horse Dutch is 5; he got Dutch when the horse was 1.
Courtney’s horse has two names – she tagged him with the second one, Piranha, because sometimes he bites.
His given name is Dunny and he’s trained as a barrel horse so he gets a little antsy waiting in the chute to rope. His restlessness manifests as a unique twitch.
“I was sitting on him and he looked back, twitched and hit me,” Courtney said. “I was like, whoa!”
Lacie rides a horse named Quincy Maiden Bar.
“She does every event imaginable – cattle roping, goat tying, barrel racing,” Lacie says. “I’ve had her since she was 2; she’s 11 now.
The kids have been to 12 rodeos since September. Excitement about the state finals is high among the teens.
Their families will travel in separate vehicles to Abilene, but together. Their goal is the same for every rodeo, “don’t get hurt.”
Riding an animal that weighs between 1,200 and 1,400 pounds at full speed can be daunting for kids less inspired.
“It’s not as easy as it looks,” Cameron says.
Breaking bones is common in the rodeo circuit. Courtney almost lost a thumb when it got tangled in her rope. Dalton was addled when he collided with a calf, losing his glasses and helmet.
Lacie was hurt all season after she tore the soft tissue in the bottom of her foot while goat tying. Her sister Kasie roped all year with a broken ankle.
“We’ve all been hurt at one time or another – you’ve got to suck it up and keep going,” Courtney says.
“I’d rather compete hurt and have fun rather than be stuck at home,” Lacie says.
Sleeping in isn’t an option for rodeo competitors. Traveling to THSRA rodeos often means being on the road at 4 a.m.
“When we went to Gonzales, we left at 6:30 in the morning and began at noon,” Courtney said. “We didn’t get through until 4 o’clock the next morning.”
The kids have won their share of prizes in saddles, buckles and prize money which helps with expenses. Unfortunately, Dalton’s prized buckle was stolen out of his athletic locker at school so he’d like to win a replacement.
“State is so much fun, mostly because of all the different people you get to meet,” Lacie says.
Competition will be tough. Cameron expects six- and seven-second times in their events.
“We’ve got to step up our times,” Cameron says. “It’s going to take 100 percent from everybody.”
If all goes well, the next stop will be nationals in Colorado.
Despite the year-round chores and the early morning wake-ups, the kids all agree, “We wouldn’t trade our lives on the ranch with anyone in town – not even for a million dollars.”
Dalton is the son of Randy Brown and Tracy Gomez, Cameron is the son of Rick and Tana Loveday, Courtney is the daughter of Mike and Kelley Myers, and Lacie is the daughter of Richard and Kellie Beall.