Younger DeMott carrying on family's rodeo tradition

Nathan Lindquist/GateHouse News Service
Mikhayla DeMott is pictured with one of the three horses she uses when competing on the rodeo circuit. The ROWVA eighth grader is competing this week in the annual Wrangler Junior High Finals Rodeo in Gallup, N.M. She has been participating in rodeos since she was in kindergarten.

Rodeo runs like blood through the veins of the DeMott family.

As soon as she could walk, Mikhayla DeMott was destined to join the family

legacy. Her grandfather, father, mother and sister all preceded her in competitive rodeo.

Now Mikhayla is the latest DeMott to enjoy the fruits of success, travelling to Gallup, N.M., for the annual Wrangler Junior High Finals Rodeo from June 30 to July 5.

The youngest DeMott has been riding since she was 3 or 4 years old and started doing rodeo when she hit kindergarten. Her parents, Mike and Robin, actually met in college on the rodeo team, and Mike's father Ron was also an active competitor for many years.

Riding their six horses is a daily activity for 13-year-old Mikhayla and 16-year-old sister Chelsea.

"We always practice and try to ride all of our horses every night," Mikhayla said. "Usually when we come home, we ride or rope until we go to bed. We work hard."

Mikhayla primarily uses three horses - Annie for barrel racing and pole bending, Smoke for breakaway calf roping and Hollywood for goat tying and team roping. Her favorite event is the barrel racing on Annie, the 21-year-old mare.

"You just learn to bond with them and you get to know them," Mikhayla said. "That way, you can be prepared for what they do."

The years of practice have paid off for the ROWVA Junior High eighth-grader. She is  traveling as part of the Illinois State Wrangler Junior High Rodeo Team to compete in the Pole Bending, Barrel Racing and Ribbon Roping competitions. The national competition features more than 1,000 contestants from 47 states and Canadian provinces and Australia.

In a sport where high speed and large animals are involved, the threat of injury looms. However, Mikhayla said she's been pretty lucky so far and hasn't been bucked off and hurt.

Her mother is not really concerned partly because of the horses they use.

"The girls' horses tend to be aged," Robin said. "Our philosophy is that the horse should be older than the rider. If the horse already has been doing rodeo for years and it already knows what to do, the kid will learn to do it too. The horse is also like a teacher that way."

For the DeMott parents, it is quite the thrill to see their daughters take

to rodeo with such gusto.

"As the parent, you function as the coach, the truck driver, the stable boy, everything," Robin said. "It's exciting to see your children go out and do what you also enjoy and excel at it. It's incredible to see them have success."

The DeMotts aren't strangers to the junior national competition. Chelsea went to the same event two years earlier, so the family knows what they're getting into. Since it is the world's largest junior high rodeo, Mikhayla will bring a little nerves with her.

"I don't get really nervous, just before my run I get a few butterflies under my stomach," Mikhayla said. "But it'll be really fun. I'll have a good time there."