Horseback riding lessons led two East Drumore residents to an avocation more commonly connected to the American west.
Larissa Byers, a junior at Solanco High School, was a sixth grader when a riding teacher got her into barrel racing, an agility event for rider and horse. As she became more interested, she got a horse bred for rodeo events.
She now rides two horses and participates in three of the sport's traditional events - barrel racing, pole bending [a race around and through six poles placed in the ground], and calf roping. All test the agility of the horse and rider team.
"We also do goat tying," Larissa said. "You get off your horse, run up to it, grab the rope and tie its legs."
Her sister, Mariah, a sixth grader at Smith Middle School, followed. She started when she was five years old, riding a miniature horse. She now competes on Jewel, a full-size horse.
Both find the sport can be inspirational.
"We met a barrel racer who is paralyzed and that showed us we can do it if we want to enough," Mariah said.
The sport's season runs from April to November, although there are competitions in other seasons, including one they participated in at the state farm show earlier this month. During the season, they may compete on eight or 10 weekends. They dress in western attire when they compete in rodeos.
To get ready, they ride every day.
"We make sure the horses are OK after every ride," Larissa said. "We also take them to a chiropractor to make sure they feel good."
That's in addition to the year-round chores including caring for the horses every morning before heading off to school and again when they get home in the afternoon.
Most of the events are an hour and a half to four hours away. On long trips, they use a horse trailer with built-in living quarters.
Riders accumulate points at each rodeo. "If you win, you get 10 points. If you get enough, you go to the finals [in the state] and the top four in each state go to the nationals," she said. "We compete as individuals and as a team."
The finals for high school competitors is in Iowa, the junior high riders go to Nebraska.
The winners also earn a belt buckle, a traditional rodeo award. Riders also earn saddle blankets, and even engraved saddles.
While winning is important, competing in the events is, in itself, satisfying.
"Ever since I took lessons from the lady who had been in rodeos, this has been what I like to do," Larissa said.