start young in rodeos, parents tout positive benefits
AZ - Gary Clark and his wife Ann Clark had big plans for retirement
nearly five years ago.
wanted to use the money they saved to travel the country.
in the blink of an eye, their grandson, Justin Lane Yazzie, changed
all their plans.
saw those kids, riding those horses out there," Gary Clark
said. "So we bought him a horse, an old mare."
instead of traveling the country far from their Shiprock home, they
travel the country near and far with their grandson from rodeo to
rodeo with a horse trailer.
May 31, at the Navajo Nation Cowboy Days Western Junior Rodeo Association
rodeo in Shiprock, the family didn't have to travel very far.
said Yazzie's mother, Kelley Clark, was an avid basketball player.
But they were open minded and ready for the challenge of rodeo,
because all they wanted was to see their then 5-year-old grandson
started quickly and progressed since the first time he leaped up
on his horse.
started barrels, then he just progressed from there. He was wooly
riding on Friday and Saturdays, and one year we just entered in
the Shiprock fair rodeo," he said. "For some reason he
just took to animals."
said he likes playing with animals and being around his friends.
Now 10 years old, Yazzie competes in barrel racing, pole bending,
goat tying, breakaway and team roping.
said his horse, Kash, is what has helped him become the rodeo athlete
he is now.
named him Kash because he always makes cash for me," Yazzie
said his most cash-driven event is team roping, which also happens
to be his favorite event.
like team roping because I get to rope with my partner," he
said. "I practice with my cousins, sometimes I get on my roping
dummy and I rope."
sometimes, he practices with his friends just like he did in between
events at Shiprock.
the rodeo arena, Yazzie, his grandfather and a group of friends
hung out by his horse trailer. While his grandfather tended to his
horse, Yazzie practiced on his roping dummy with close friend Cota
and Yazzie are the same in many ways. They both participate in the
same events, they both love rodeo and both of their families are
new to rodeo.
Yazzie's family, he alone is the rodeoer. But, in Nahkai's family
he is only one of four rodeoers in the family.
older brother Colby Nahkai, older sister Codee Nahkai and father
Dwane Nahkai all rodeo.
Nahkai said he dabbled in team roping but didn't do it often and
learned on his own.
did team roping, practiced with the kids. When I was young my father
wasn't around and I had to do things on my own," he said. "My
mother raised us but I was the only one who kept roping."
he taught his eldest son, Colby Nahkai.
started when he was six years old. Dwane Nahkai said once his son
got a taste of rodeo he couldn't get enough.
did rodeo here and there, when he was 12 years old he did junior
rodeo," Dwane Nahkai said. "He just kept going. He just
wanted to do it more."
now, he teaches his younger siblings, behind the gates or chutes,
changing saddles or tying loose ends.
Nahkai, 16, is also a standout basketball player. He has been selected
to play in the Down Under Hoops Classic July 19-30 at the Gold Coast
the meantime, rodeo is his life.
Nahkai said his interest in rodeo started simple but has become
something he takes seriously.
travel and to get to meet new people and make new friends,"
he said. "I just like being around animals a lot. I like calf
roping because it's really competitive."
sister and Dwane Nahkai's only daughter, 14-year-old Codee Nahkai,
is quite competitive herself.
Nahkai proudly claims pole bending as her favorite event out of
the three other events she participates in.
you get to weave through six poles," she said. "What's
fun about it is you get to hold the reins and go back and fourth
with the horse.
pretty sure the horse likes weaving back and forth," she said.
interest was driven by curiosity.
I used to be small, my parents used to take us to rodeos,"
she said. "I used to sit there and I wondered if I could ever
get in it."
not only got in it, she became good enough to win the Western Junior
Rodeo Association coed calf-roping event in 2007 and wears the buckle
to prove it.
partners in crime are Mr. Quick and Pebbles, but Pebbles is her
favorite because he goes faster in the pole-bending event.
9-year-old brother, Cota Nahkai, enjoys the roughness of calf riding
and he likes it that way.
like fast ones, they like to buck," he said. "I have a
hat, no helmet, because they're small and easy."
three children in rodeo, Dwane Nahkai said things can get rough
at times but in the end he knows that it's all worth it.
a lot but I think it's just to keep our kids out of trouble,"
he said. "They can experience something else."
said he truly believes that his children's participation in rodeo
has positively influenced them. They respect the sport and the hard
work that goes along with it.
taking care of the horses' the trailer ...hands on responsibility,"
he said. "It keeps them busy instead of just staying home and
said his grandson enjoys every aspect of rodeo life.
really enjoys it," Clark said. "I get to travel and see
my friends from other places."
said though he and his wife's retirement plans have changed they
wouldn't change a single thing.
said he and his wife have been very fortunate to be able to see
his grandson rodeo and spend time with him when they travel.
say 'rodeo family' and it's right, it's a family deal," he
said. "It's a big rodeo family deal, we know just about all
the other kids. One day you're here the next day we can be in Page.
Later on he's going to learn something from it."
they had to trade in their retirement plans.