Juanice Gray | Editor
Ava Grace Townsend, 9, competed for the National Little Britches Rodeo world finals barrel racing title at the Lazy E Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla., July 5-10.
The event boasted competitors from across the United States and Canada.
At the US Nationals, Townsend earned buckles, but that only helped her to rank 61st among 258 competitors in her 10 and under division going into the Worlds Competition. Her years of hard work, coupled with disappointments and success, drove her into the sixth ranked position when the dust settled.
Townsend and her horse, Josey, had three runs around the cloverleaf pattern with times of 15.2, 15.1 and 15.1. For those who don’t know rodeo, that is fast! She didn’t just wake up one day, saddle up and run those times, it took years of hard work and dedication. Like an Olympic athlete, to be competitive in any sport, one has to put in the training.
Townsend began competing in rodeo four years ago at the tender age of five. Her parents allowed her to attend a training camp and from there, Hannah Forsythe, then Lacey Dubois of Colfax became her trainers. The fifth grader at Magnolia Bend Academy rides Josey five days a week and trains a couple hours per day twice a week with Dubois.
“It finally paid off,” said dad, J.C. Townsend of Natchitoches, from the family’s trailer in Oklahoma Monday, July 11. “Last year was rough. She came in ranked high and we had a disastrous finals. This year, Nora (wife) and I came in without expectations. Ava, well, she truly worked harder than ever. Her goal was to come in and finish in the top 10.”
Ava said her favorite part of competing in rodeo is just being with her horse. “It’s a tough sport and a good experience,” she said. “It’s also really hard work.”
She said when she and Josey have a good day, Josey gets her favorite apple treats…and Ava earns buckles.
She earned three at the world competition; one for first place, one for highest average and a gold buckle for her sixth place overall finish.
J.C. thanks Dubois for pushing his daughter to reach her dreams. The sport has allowed the family to meet icons in rodeo and travel across the country pursuing Ava’s dreams. They will travel to Las Vegas in December to compete in Tuff-Fest.
J.C. said it is difficult sometimes to juggle work and rodeo. “When you have kids, you try to do everything you can to make their dreams come true, as long as they do their part and put in the time and work.”
Looks like Ava’s dreams are coming true as she and Josey make that final turn and head for the alley.
Juanice Gray | Editor