Payton Jane McLelland, 10, is representing her hometown of Cleveland, Texas, this week in the National Little Britches Rodeo Association’s national finals at Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Okla. McLelland, the daughter of Preston McLelland of Cleveland and Stephani McLelland of Galveston, is a student at Cleveland Middle School.
McLelland will be competing this week in the pole bending and trails challenge contests. To qualify for Nationals, riders must advance past the state level by by placing seventh or higher in the state contest.
McLelland has been riding horses since the age of 4 when she began participating in rodeo play days, first being guided by lead line and then in solo contests. Stephani said her daughter is a naturally gifted rider and has learned a lot from her dad, who is a team roper and competes in local contests.
As she qualified in two categories, McLelland faces a busy week with contests on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. If she makes it through the finals, she will compete in the Short Go on Sunday. She is riding her horse Roland for pole bending and Jazz for the trails challenge. Both are quarter horses.
Pole bending requires speed and finesse as the horse must race to the end of a line of six poles set up in the center of an arena, then weave on a serpentine path through the poles without knocking any over. If the horse and rider miss a pole, they receive a time penalty. If they go off course, they can be disqualified.
For the trails challenge, the horse and rider must navigate a series of obstacles that mimic challenges of ranch life, such as fetching items from a mailbox, opening and closing gates with the rider still astride the horse, then spinning through barrels without toppling one, and then crossing a bridge.
McLelland trains for these events on weekends, her mom said, as school is her focus during the week.
“She is just a natural. She feeds them every morning and night, and works with them on the weekends and goes to playdays,” Stephani said. “When she isn’t doing rodeo events, she loves spending time with her grandparents and other family members, and works with her other animals. She shows steers and heifers.”
To keep up with the rodeo standings, go online to https://www.nlbra.com/. Bluebonnet News will update readers if she places or wins in the Nationals.