Fellsmere youth rope and ride at rodeo

 FELLSMERE — More than 50 young people ranging in age from 6 to 18 competed in the the Fellsmere Junior Rodeo Buckle Series Saturday on the grounds of the Fellsmere Riding Club Rodeo Arena on North Willow Street.

 The rodeo started out with the barrell races, an event that pits tough and talented young ladies and their horses against the clock and each other. The idea is maneuver the horse to round three 55-gallon drums placed in a triangle in the arena without knocking any of the barrels over, and to do this in the fastest time. Each barrel knocked over adds 5 seconds to the rider’s time. Kelly Maudlin, 14, of Fellsmere won first place in the junior barrels on Saturday, riding her 8-year-old horse Booger.


 “I’ve been riding barrels since I was about 5 years old, it’s fun,” she said. “Turning the barrels takes a lot of practice, we have an arena at our house where me and my sister practice.”

 Winning the junior division was bittersweet for Maudlin, as this summer’s series of youth rodeos — with the final one scheduled for September 12 — is being put on in honor of Kelly’s brother, who was killed in a car accident, she said, three years ago. He was a competitor in the bull racing and his sister proudly wears a belt buckle in his memory.

 The junior division events are for ages 11 to 14, seniors are ages 15 to 18 and there is a division just for the smaller kids, the tots age 19 and under. After the barrels, other competitions included pole raicing, goat roping, breakaway, calf riding, junior bulls and senior bulls.

 While waiting for the barrel racing to conclude, Taylor Lewis and her 7-year-old mare named Sexy were gearing up for the next competition, the pole racing. She was also entered in the goat tying, breakaway and team ropes. Anticipating the pole-racing, Sexy was decked out in blue and orange with an embroidered Florida Gator on the pad under the saddle for good luck. Lewis explained that pole racing involves weaving, on horseback, in and out of six poles placed 21 feet apart in the arena. It’s her second year competing in the event, she trains on a friend’s property south of Malabar in Brevard County.

 “The toughest thing is the last pole, the horse wants to keep going, she wants to go to the end,” Lewis said.

 Riders and horses gallop out past the six poles, then ride back and round the last pole, then ride between the poles in the opposite direction, then sprint back in to pass the eye of the timer in the fastest time. It’s a precise art as a missed or knocked down pole can add penalty seconds or can even disqualify the rider from getting an official run time.

 The Fellsmere Riding Club grounds parking lot is definitely a place where a four-wheel-drive vehicle comes in handy, especially if it’s been rainy. Though the parking lot was a Organizer Karen Ledford and a dedicated group of parents and volunteers had worked hard to get the arena grounds e dry and in good shape for the much-anticipated event. In between rounds, Brian Burkeen smoothed out the dirt with a tractor, sort-of a dirt Zamboni, to provide a safe, fair surface for the competitiors, which incuded his own children.

 Ledford said the event would not have been possible without the support of Fellsmere Feed, whose owners paid the resgistration fees for all 50 of the kids to enter the youth rodeo. She thanked Fellsmere Feed and urged the more than 400 people present to please patronize the feed store in appreciation of their support of the youth rodeo.

 Trophies were handed out for first place in all the events, but the top prize, the buckle, for the rodeo will be awarded during the Mauldin Memorial Junior Rodeo on September 12.

 Check back as all the results of the rodeo will be posted as soon as we receive them.

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