“Pepper” or “Roany Pony” may carry Seguin’s Presley Pence to a National High School Rodeo berth.

Pence, a newly graduated  Seguin High School senior will begin competition at the Texas High School Rodeo finals starting Tuesday in Abilene, and one of her two horses, or both, could earn her a spot in the national finals rodeo.

Pence will be competing in two events, team roping and breakaway roping, after she earned enough points since September in regional competitions to qualify for the Texas finals.

“We just scooted in in 10th place,” Pence said of the team roping event, where she and her partner, Erica Tiner from Rosanky, beat out about 25 other teams to earn the place in the state finals. The top 10 teams over the 12 regional rodeos, all held in Gonzales, made the Texas finals.

Making the top 10 in 12 rodeos was no easy task, especially considering that Pence and Tiner just partnered up this year, after both of their teammates graduated last year.

“We finished third once, and in a few of them we got fifth place,” Pence said. “We were pretty consistent and got enough points over the other teams to make it.”

Pence, who rides her horse Pepper for team roping, is the heeler, responsible for roping the back legs of the steer in the event.

“Our fastest time was around 8.7 seconds,” she said.

Pence grew up with Pepper, an Appaloosa, and has ridden him for years. He has a personality all his own, she said.

“He’s kind of the grumpy old man,” she laughed. 

Pence comes by her life with horses honestly, learning almost everything from her dad, Jason. She’s been riding since she was four years old.

 

LIfelong rider

“We started out heading on a dummy, then learned how to heel next, and then the breakaway roping,” she said. 

Pence rides her other horse, Roany Pony, in the individual event, breakaway roping, which she also qualified for by finishing in the top 10 in the regional events. She made the state rodeo last year in the event.

Breakaway roping involves her roping the calf, and the time stops when the rope “breaks away” from the saddle on the horse.

“Last year at state I had a 2.26 (seconds) and got second place in the round,” Pence said.

 

Pepper and Roany

Her two horses have different traits that make them better for each event, she said.

“Roany is a little faster and we’ve trained her for breakaway roping, and Pepper is more trained for team roping,” Pence said.

Roany is probably the friendlier of the two horses, but of course she loves them both.

“I love that I can get on them and ride at any time,” Pence said. “They don’t get crazy like some horses if you don’t ride them for a while, they stay pretty level-headed.”

Pence will potentially have three rounds to make the top four in the state and move on to the national finals.

Ropers must be in the top 15 in the first two rounds to qulaify for the short round final.

“We have two rounds, and the top 15 with the fastest times on two head for the week make the short round,” she explained. “The person with the fastest times on three head wins state and then the top four from state go to nationals.”

 

The competition

She’ll have to beat some tough competition to advance to nationals — there are 100 entries in each event from 10 different regions in the state,.

“It’s very competitive and there are some pretty good ropers in the state, but anything can happen,” Pence said. “The pressure gets to a lot of people, so it’s about whoever works the best with pressure.”

Pence has worked hard and trained for many hours over the last couple of months. That was on top of making sure she kept her grades up to be eligible to compete.

“I’ve been practicing a lot and trying to figure out what I need to do to get as sharp as I can to rope,” she said. “I have to keep the horses in good shape and make sure we haul them up there safely. Then when we get there I have to stay focused. There’s a lot of stuff to do there, but I have to remember I’m there for the rodeo.”

Pence, who played softball at Seguin High School, said that playing for the Lady Mats has helped her in her rodeo competitions.

“Playing on a team really relates to roping with your horse, because your horse is your team member,” she said. “Plus, in team roping you have to learn how to work with other people.

“Softball helps me to stay positive and confident. It’s easy to get down on yourself, but there are so many variables in both sports, so I’ve learned to keep my head up and just go on to the next one.”

Pence will attend Texas A&M in the fall and will continue to rodeo, but not for the Aggies, as the expense of keeping her horses there is prohibitive. The Aggie college team requires boarding your horses in College Station.

“I’m not going to college rodeo, but I’m planning on doing some CPRA rodeos,“ she said. She also plans on competing in local rodeos while in school at A&M, where she will be working toward a degree in animal science.

Pence is not the only rodeo competitor in the family, as her little brother Jhett rode this year in the junior high competitions, winning all-around cowboy for the region at the rodeos in Gonzales.

The national finals will be held in Wyoming, two weeks after the state competition.

 

Kevin Duke is the sports editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at sports@seguingazette.com.

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