A CLOSER LOOK

CHEYENNE's FOUR RODEO EVENTS

Barrel racing: A horse and rider race in a clover-leaf pattern around three barrels during the barrel racing event. The fastest horse wins the event. Horses are divided based on speed into 1D, 2D, 3D and 4D. Horses racing 1D are the fastest ones.

Pole bending: In pole bending, a mounted rider weaves through a series of six poles placed 21 feet apart. The horses are timed, and the fastest time wins the event. Horses are penalized if they knock over a pole, miss a pole or go off course.

Goat tying: During goat tying, a rider races to the end of the arena, where a goat is staked out on a rope. The rider must catch the goat, throw it to the ground and tie three of its hooves together. The rider with the fastest time wins.

Breakaway: Breakaway roping is an event that involves a rider and a calf. The calf is roped, but it is not thrown and tied. Once the calf is roped, the rope is tied to the saddle horn with a string and pulled tight until the string breaks.

INDIAN NATIONALS FINAL RODEO

In 1976, five people formed the Indian National Finals Rodeo, which is made up of several regional Indian Rodeo Associations from the U.S. and Canada. The first-ever Indian National Finals Rodeo took place in Salt Lake City's Salt Palace in Utah.

Participants: Competitors come from 11 regions within the U.S. and Canada. Athletes range in age from 8 to 80. More than 350 qualified contestants from about 75 tribes compete in the eight major events each year.

Prizes: Throughout the year, contestants compete for more than $1 million in prize money and awards. This culminates in the Indian National Finals Rodeo.

Miss Indian Rodeo: The rodeo also features a rodeo queen. This year's queen is Amanda Kay Not Afraid, a member of the Crow tribe in Montana. Her responsibilities include representing the Indian National Finals Rodeo and the Miss Indian Rodeo organization by attending region and tour rodeos.

For more information on the rodeo, go to infr.org

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.

Cash Pioche rides Brownie during barrel racing practice on Thursday in Farmington.
Cash Pioche rides Brownie during barrel racing practice on Thursday in Farmington. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

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 Pioche’s wears her peewee barrel racing champion buckle from the Indian Junior Rodeo Association.
Cheyenne Pioche's wears her peewee barrel racing champion buckle from the Indian Junior Rodeo Association. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

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.

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.


HOW TO HELP

Cheyenne Pioche is looking for sponsors to help her get to the Indian National Finals Rodeo. To sponsor her, call 505-360-0333.