Savanah Nelson can barrel down a rodeo arena, dismount and tie three legs of a goat in 6.8 seconds. The 16-year-old junior at DeSoto High School has the qualifications from the National High School Rodeo Association to prove it.
Goat tying, a high school and college rodeo event created to prepare youth for calf roping, requires precise technique. Nelson, who originally qualified in sixth grade, spends hours every day practicing slow-motion tying with goats so she can secure their legs without hurting them. Safety is a priority, she says, and rodeo association rules assure no harm is done. “They are just as important to us as our rodeo contestants,” she says.
Nelson also relies on her horse, Poncho, who happens to be blind in one eye. “Everybody thinks that with a blind horse he’s going to run you over, but he knows his job,” she says.
In eighth grade, during a two-day rodeo before the big nationals in Wyoming, Nelson stepped sideways off her horse and broke her ankle during the first event. “I told my dad, ‘Rip up my boot, duct tape it together and put a brace on it.’ I did very well and made it in two events for nationals,” she says. College scouts have taken notice, and Nelson hopes to start touring rodeo colleges in Texas.
You can watch Nelson and other contestants compete in the fifth annual Arcadia Fall Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) Rodeo, Oct. 20-21. The new $9.2 million Mosaic Arena has almost 8,000 seats; tickets (arcadiarodeo.com) start at $16 for regular reserve bleachers.