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June 8, 2014

No horsing around in Iowa

Valley pals to battle each other at national rodeo

MIDDLEBURG — A 14-year-old Snyder County girl has qualified for her second National Junior High Finals Rodeo, and she can’t wait to compete against the finest cowgirls in the United States.

“I was nervous last year,” said Keariana Lauver, 14, of Middleburg, who will be competing in goat-tying, barrels and pole bending at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines beginning June 22.

“This year I know what to expect and I’m pretty confident.”

She should be.

By finishing in the Top Four spots in those three events in the Pennsylvania championships in May, the eighth-grade cyber-school student qualified for nationals.

Last year, her first at the nationals, Keariana placed anywhere from 50th to 100th in her events.

“That was awfully good considering the rodeo was in New Mexico and the altitude was not what our horses were used to,” Keariana’s mother, Charlene Lauver said. “That’s where the riders who came from the West had a natural advantage.”

They won’t have that advantage this year, not in Iowa.

Keariana will compete against 200 sixth- through eighth-graders for national titles in her events. It’s difficult competition, but Keariana thrives on it, her mother said.

Keariana first got onto a horse when she was 6.

Since then, she has known that racing is what she wants to do.

“I like how it’s fast, because I like the speed in it,” Keariana said. “It’s just really fun. I ride almost every night.”

At 6, Keariana began riding on trails, her mother said, and then worked with a trainer in riding lessons.

“That got her into barrels and soon enough she was into competitions,” her mother said. “I think that’s when she really fell in love with the sport. It’s now a passion and desire.”

Keariana, and her friend, Madison Valencia, 12, of Winfield, practice regularly on the Lauver property, where there’s a corral for training horses.

Madison also qualified for nationals.

Keariana owns five horses, which she alternates when competing in rodeos around Pennsylvania. That way she doesn’t tire any one of them out. But her two favorite steeds are Ginger and Sassy. And it’s Ginger she worked out with Thursday.

She and Madison help each other as they practice, offering advice, motivating each other as they practiced pole-bending — a race where the rider maneuvers in a weaving or serpentine pattern around six poles fixed in a straight line. The objective is to make the run in the fastest time possible.

This form of racing requires a lot of training to master, Charlene Lauver said.

Keariana and the horse act like one body. They must follow the pattern that they have practiced repeatedly. All the turns in the race are to be predetermined in her mind. She has to sit on the saddle and navigate the horse using his lower body.

Madison will compete in Iowa in pole-bending and breakaway.

“They’re good friends,” Charlene Lauver said as the girls practiced nearby. “They root for each other, help each other out. But in competition, they also want to beat each other.”

“I’m nervous about my first national,” Madison said. “But it’s good that I’ve had Keariana telling me what it’s going to be like. It’s OK having friends there with you.”

Although it’s far too early to make life decisions, Keariana said she might want to attend the University of Tennessee, which offers a rodeo major.

“I mean, she could change her mind,” Charlene Lauver said. “She is only 14. But I know that eventually she would like to make it to the NFR, the national finals rodeo at the professional level, and the premiere championship rodeo event in the United States.”

 

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