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Continuing a family tradition: Local student vies for national rodeo title
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Hilmar resident Londyn Brazil exercises her horses, Twiggy and Barbie, in preparation for the National Junior High Finals Rodeo. - photo by ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal

For the Brazil family, rodeo isn’t just a hobby – it’s a way of life. Years after both Mandy Brazil and her husband, Jeff, competed individually in the National High School Finals Rodeo, their daughter, Londyn, will now continue the tradition as she prepares to travel to Lebanon, Tennessee for the National Junior High Finals Rodeo.

In 2004, the Junior High Division of the NHSFR was created so that sixth, seventh and eighth graders could experience the excitement of competing in a national rodeo. There are 48 states and provinces that compete in the NJHFR, with over 1,500 members in total fighting for a shot at a national title. Junior high students participate in a variety of events, including barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, breakaway roping, tie-down roping, chute dogging, team roping, ribbon roping, and junior bull riding, bareback steer riding and saddle bronc steer riding.

“It’s like the World Cup of rodeos,” said Londyn.

Londyn, who just completed seventh grade at Hilmar Middle School, competes in two events: pole bending and goat tying. Pole bending is a timed event that features a horse and rider running a weaving or serpentine path around six poles arranged in a line. Goat tying, however, is a bit more complex. First, the rider and horse race to the end of the arena where a goat is staked out on a 10 feet rope. The rider then hops off his or her horse as the animal is still sliding to a stop, catches the goat, throws it down to the ground and ties three of its feet together.  Londyn often trains with her family’s goats, who hop up happily after each practice round.

Although this is her first time attending NJHFR, she began riding horses when she was just two years old and has been participating in rodeos competitively since age seven. For Mandy, it’s like watching history repeat itself.

“She’s a third generation rodeo-er,” said Mandy, whose parents also participated in the rodeo. “It’s pretty awesome for us to see her go to NJHFR. The intensity there is unbelievable – she has no idea.”

To prepare for NJHFR, which runs from June 19-25, Londyn has been practicing twice a day, morning and night. She also takes the horses swimming in their equine swimming pool, which is shaped similarly to a lollipop and allows the horses to better build their muscles without putting as much strain on their joints as running brings.

“I also watch old videos of myself competing – the good ones – and tie the goat on the ground every night to keep my hands fast,” said Londyn.

In addition to competing at the rodeo, Londyn also plans to try her hand in politics. The Junior High Division has three student officers: President, Vice President and Secretary. While at NJHFR, competitors have the option to run for office; Londyn plans to campaign for the position of President. If elected, Londyn will have the opportunity to attend the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, as well as several rodeo board meetings and the National FFA Convention.

“You campaign just like you would for any other council,” said Mandy. “If she wins, she’ll basically be the voice for the members.”

Londyn will travel to Lebanon by truck, making for a three-day journey with their trailer and five horses in tow. Two of those horses, Twiggy and Barbie, will compete alongside Londyn in the goat tying and pole bending events, respectively. According to Mandy, Londyn trained Barbie in pole bending on her own, taking her from a rowdy, young horse to a distinguished rodeo champion. It is that same determination and skill that not only got Londyn qualified for NJHFR, but will hopefully bring her home with a national title.