FARMINGTON — Rodeo has been a tradition in the Pioche family for generations, so it wasn't surprising that a few years ago Cheyenne Pioche's parents put her on the family's paint mare, Patches.
"My dad wanted me to carry on the tradition," she said.
The 11-year-old now hopes to compete in the Indian National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nev. The Bloomfield girl is currently is ranked No. 2 in the Navajo Nation Rodeo Association. The top two contestants in the association qualify for the finals in November.
But while Cheyenne loves riding now, her first time riding Patches didn't go smoothly.
"I was scared of the horses at first," she recalled.
Patches had barely started walking when Cheyenne began to scream, said the girl's mother, Songtree Pioche.
At the same time, Cheyenne's younger brother, Cash, took to the saddle quickly and began to win awards in the rodeo circuit. Seeing Cash, then age 4, ride helped Cheyenne overcome her fear.
Cheyenne eventually outgrew Patches and her second horse, Brownie. Now, she rides Lucky — a dark bay mare with a white star on its forehead.
Songtree Pioche said the family liked the 15-year-old quarterhorse mare's bloodlines. Lucky was originally a race horse sired by Lucky Aces N Eights. When she became lame, she was pulled from the track and put to pasture for eight years before being sold to a woman in Grants who began to work with her on barrels.
When the Pioches bought Lucky, she was running 3D, or three divisions. In barrel racing, the speed of a horse is classified either as 1D and 2D, which is for fast horses, or 3D and 4D for the slower horses.
The Pioches sent Lucky to a trainer and worked with her on her lead changes. Being a race horse, Lucky was accustomed to a left lead when running. However, in barrels, a horse must approach the first barrel with a right lead before switching to a left lead as it goes toward the second of the three barrels.
While Lucky was at the trainer, Cheyenne was also working to learn new techniques by watching videos.
The duo is now racing 1D.
In addition to barrels, Cheyenne competes in break-away, pole bending and goat tying. However, she usually rides Brownie, a smaller chestnut mare, during those events.
She is working on training Lucky for pole bending.
Being relatively new to the rodeo scene, Cheyenne and Cash also rely on tips from their uncles and other rodeo athletes. Songtree Pioche said they also help Cheyenne learn to accept her losses.
"One day, you're a rockstar, and the next day you're crying at your trailer," Songtree Pioche said.
The brother and sister also receive tips on techniques and horse health from other athletes.
Cheyenne has five more rodeos left before the regional rodeo to qualify for the Indian National Final Rodeos. She is trying to ride in as many as possible to gain experience.
"It teaches you a lot about how to manage pressure," Songtree Pioche said.
Last weekend, Cheyenne took second place the first day and first place the second day at the Southwest Barrel Racing Association Rodeo.
She is also looking for sponsors to help pay for her to compete in the finals.
"Sponsorship and rodeo go hand and hand," Songtree Pioche said.
Cheyenne Pioche is looking for sponsors to help her get to the Indian National Finals Rodeo. To sponsor her, call 505-360-0333.