FARMINGTON — Eight months of competition culminated Friday in the final rodeo for the novices, juniors and seniors of the San Juan County 4-H Rodeo.
The cowboys and cowgirls with the most points earned by Friday's rodeo were awarded prizes, with the top two scorers winning saddles. The competitors were judged throughout the year based on their times in a variety of events, including breakaway, ribbon roping, barrel racing and pole bending.
The president of the local 4-H Rodeo, Bellamie Presley, said a competitor's ability to communicate with his or her horse is key to achieving success in the events.
Presley would know. She competes semi-professionally in the state, and her daughter, Senna, is a top competitor in the senior division. Both mother and daughter favor the breakaway roping event, where the cowboy or cowgirl ropes the steer and then allows an extraneous cord attached to the rope to "breakaway," freeing the animal.
Senna Presley managed to rope and breakaway in 2.509 seconds at the event on Friday, but she was penalized 10 seconds for failing to catch the steer clean on the neck. Novice Denton Favor managed an impressive 2.905 seconds in the breakaway, with a clean catch and no penalties.
Senna Presley, 15, said she has ridden horses since she was 4 years old, winning her first buckle at the San Juan Junior Rodeo at age 5. She now owns five horses, each of which has strengths suited to the five events in which she competes.
Bellamie Presley said her daughter has been offered several college scholarships thanks to her dedication to the sport, including one at Stanford University.
"You feel like you are paying it forward," Bellamie Presley said about the high cost of the sport. "It's not cheap, but if you can get that college scholarship ..."
Presley said Stanford is her top choice for college.
"I want to be a pharmacist when I get bigger," she said.
The classic event of rodeo, bronco busting, was not featured this year at Friday's 4-H Rodeo. Bellamie Presley said there were just not enough participants, which is a reflection of the region, she believes.
"It's more of a predominant roping area," she said of northwestern New Mexico. "I have a theory. It's about working ranches. You don't see a lot of them out here."
Jesus Polanco breeds horses in San Juan County. His daughter, Karyme, 12, started competing two years ago and favors barrel racing.
He agreed the region tended to favor roping events, but he said he was not sure why.
Mayra Polanco, Karyme's mother, said the family has always worked with horses. Her father, Alonso Polanco, was a roper in Blanco for most his life.
She said she never got involved in rodeo, but her daughter showed an interest, and they decided to sign her up with a 4-H Club.
Asked whether she was concerned about her daughter's safety, she said she was, "but we know God is in control."
The season's winners of the 4-H Rodeo will be announced at 6 p.m. Tuesday at McGee Park.