Benton’s Samantha McClure and Jillian Carter are competing in National Finals rodeo events this month.
McClure, a 12-year-old Benton Middle School student, will compete in barrel racing in the National Little Britches Rodeo Finals which begins July 10 in Guthrie, Okla.
Carter, a May graduate of Benton High, will compete in pole bending in the National High School Finals Rodeo July 15-21 in Rock Springs, Wyo.
Carter, who has competed in Louisiana High School Rodeo the past four years, is making her second consecutive trip to the National Finals.
McClure is representing the Cajun Little Britches and Deep South La. chapters.
She has been riding since the age of 3. Her father, Jeff, an accomplished rodeo bull rider, got her started when she asked him for a pony named Mr Blue Jeans.
In order to qualify for the Little Britches Finals, a rider must have placed in the top seven at least five times throughout the year.
McClure and her new horse, Dirty, qualified for the finals in the first five rodeos this year in barrel racing.
Dirty is a 13-year-old Flea Bit grey quarter horse gelding.
“He is truly a one of a kind horse,” Samantha’s mother, Stephanie Adair, said. “Samantha knew she wanted Dirty the first time shoe rode him.”
Stephanie said Samantha begged her parents to buy him every day until they brought him home and surprised her.
“Dirty was a big step up horse from Samantha’s previous barrel horse, Rayne, a 24-year-old paint mare in which Samantha retired from barrel racing last year and only competes in goat tying events on,” Adair said.
Samantha is a beginner in the goat tying event and hopes to make it to the finals this season, Adair said.
Samantha started competing in barrel racing around the age of 5 with Cowgirl Vivette Middlebrooks of Benton as her trainer.
“Samantha and her parents are extremely grateful for the positive influence, love, dedication and teaching she has devoted to Samantha throughout the years,” Adair said.
“Vivette is also credited with finding all three of Samantha’s barrel horses, which have all been a perfect horse and rider match!”
Adair said Samantha also appreciates the help she has received from Cowgirl Brandi Dehart of Cotton Valley.
“Brandi has had a big influence on Samantha’s riding career,” Adair said. “She is one of her biggest supporters, mentor, trainer and friend.
“I just love my horses and love being a cowgirl,” Samantha said. “I love spending time with my friends at the rodeos, Rodeo Bible Camp and making new rodeo friends.”
Samantha hopes to ride at the main National Finals Rodeo one day and to get a rodeo scholarship to Texas A&M.
“I want to be a world champion barrel racer like Martha Josey and Fallon Taylor and I want to teach special needs kids horseback riding,” Samantha said.
She wishes all the competitors at Little Britches good luck and safe travels.
Carter will be among more than 1,650 contestants from 43 states, five Canadian provinces, Australia and Mexico in the National High School Finals Rodeo.
More than $200,000 in prizes and $300,000 in college scholarships will be awarded in addition to having the opportunity to become a World Champion.
To earn the title, contestants must finish in the top 20 — based on their combined times/scores in the first two rounds — to advance to the final round.
World Champions will be determined on their three-round combined scores.
Carter, 18, graduated from Benton with a 4.21 GPA. A member of the National Honor Society, she plans to major in biology at LSU and later attend dental school.
Carter began riding at age 6 in the English riding genre. She has had success competing in several states, especially locally. Carter was the Louisiana Hunter Jumper Association state champion in her division.
She began Western riding after receiving a gift certificate for a lesson from her grandmother one year.
It took about two years, but she eventually took the lesson and fell in love with Western riding, her mother, Donna, said.
Carter won the Louisiana High School Rodeo barrel racing title in 2016-17 and is the 2017-18 state champion in pole bending. She plans to compete in college rodeo at LSU.
— Staff Reports, firstname.lastname@example.org