Unlike many top barrel racers who grew up surrounded by horses and began traveling to rodeos long before they could walk, Montezuma-Cortez High School senior Chevelle Reed did not ride consistently until she was in middle school.
Lack of experience has done little to slow the 17-year-old star, who, dedicated and determined, qualified for the Junior World Finals rodeo this fall.
“I’ve been trying for about four years now, and I finally managed to get hold of the spot that I wanted,” Reed said. “It was really exciting. I had troubles with my horse that same day, but we pulled it off, and we got a really nice run that qualified.”
While Reed’s qualification for the Junior World Finals rodeo was not surprising, her rise to the top of the junior ranks was somewhat unexpected given her background.
Born in Durango and raised in Montezuma County, Reed, like many of her peers, grew up riding four-wheelers and side-by-sides on weekends, swimming in local lakes and enjoying the outdoors.
Unlike many top junior rodeo competitors, however, Reed and her family neither owned horses nor had any familiarity with them.
“I did not grow up around horses, and I didn’t start riding until I was in middle school,” the high school senior said. A few of my middle school friends had horses, and I would ride when I went over to their house. I really enjoyed it.”
After becoming increasingly comfortable in the saddle and slowly gaining an interest in rodeo, Reed and her family purchased a horse and some barrels and began dabbling in barrel racing.
Immediately after competing in her first junior rodeo during her freshman year of high school, Reed knew that she had found her calling and with the help of her parents, Robert and Michelle Reed, began traveling to junior rodeos all over the country.
“We’ve traveled to Oklahoma, Kansas, Utah, and all over Colorado,” Reed said. “Some months, we’ve had a rodeo every week. We’ve spent a lot of time on the road, and we’ve had a lot of fun together.”
Although Reed’s willingness to travel to numerous rodeos greatly aided in her development as a barrel racer, her ascension to the top of the junior did not become a reality until she paired herself with her spirited horse.
“My horse’s name is ‘Salty,’ and let’s just say that the name fits him,” Reed said with a smile. “He is this little 14.2 (hand) pony – he’s a short little thing. We bought him in Missouri about a year-and-a-half ago. He has so much spirit.”
While Salty’s spirit has stood out on the junior circuit, so, too, has his speed and his quickness around barrels, which has allowed Reed to make up for the type of slight mishaps that sometimes take place during a run.
Riding Salty has not come without challenges, however, as Reed’s energetic mount has sometimes had difficulty getting around the second barrel, which has led to time penalties and a few less-than-perfect finishes.
The partnership between Reed and Salty has been a wonderful one, however, as the blond-haired rider and the brown horse with a black tail and white markings on his face and legs have forged a bond built on mutual respect and trust.
“I think that they’ve learned a lot about connection from one another,” said Reed’s mother, Michelle, when asked about her daughter and the horse. “Chevelle has learned that if you take care of a horse, they take care of you right back.”
Looking ahead to a bright future
While many junior rodeo competitors slow down come winter, Reed has been eagerly preparing for this year’s Junior World Finals rodeo, which will take place, Dec. 3-12, in Fort Worth, Texas.
Among the highlights of the prestigious event, which is slated to include more than 700 competitors from around the country and Canada, will be an opportunity for competitors to witness the National Finals Rodeo, which will take place in Fort Worth during the same time period.
Although Reed admitted competition will be tight, she emphasized that she will take the three-run event one at a time because final rankings are determined by the overall average of a competitor’s three runs.
“I hope that I get clean rides every day that I ride” Reed said. “You basically win off of the average, and I need to keep that in mind. I just hope that I can get nice runs and keep the barrels standing.”
In the event that the Montezuma-Cortez High School rodeo star is successful, she will likely claim a portion of what the rodeo advertises as “more than $200,000 payout and prices,” scholarships, saddles, and other gear.
Even if she does not capture a portion of the payout, however, Reed is hopeful that her hard work and dedication will pay dividends in the form of a college scholarship and an opportunity to compete on one of several rodeo teams around the nation.
“I just applied for college at University of Wyoming,” Reed said. “I am hoping to rodeo for them. I plan on rodeo being a continuous sport for me throughout my life.”
Asked what advice she might give to young riders in her community who would one day like to be where she is now, Reed paused before noting that achieving excellence in any walk of life requires determination and dedication.
“I would tell them not to give up and keep working hard,” Reed said. “If you lose hope, just keep going after it. I have lost my interest (in rodeo) so many times, but I have always come back. You just have to keep at it.”
This article was reposted Nov. 17 to correct the spelling of the Chevelle Reed’s name.