Nothing was going to put Dusty Gorloff out of the competition, not even his sheep.
Gorloff, 4, entered and won the sheep riding competition after holding on to the animal for dear life until his uncle had to pull it off.
“I don’t even know how I did it, I just held on with all my might,” Gorloff said. “Next year I’m going to try riding calves!”
This was one of many competitions keikis ages 4 to 18 entered during the Hawaii Keiki Rodeo Association finals on Saturday.
“HKRA started with a handful of friends talking about how our island lacked keiki rodeo events and an avenue for kids to start their rodeo experience and gain the confidence to compete when they are older,” said HKRA President Jeff Cabral. . “We never imagined that our rodeos would attract so many contestants, in addition to the overwhelming support our community has shown us.”
Families and friends gathered at the Al Cabral Rodeo Arena in Hilo to enjoy the sunny day as some 130 keiki raced and competed on their beloved horses.
Boys competed in mock roping, goat tying, pole bending, barreling, breaking rope, tie-roping, sheep riding, team roping, ribbon grabbing, and calf riding.
14-year-old rider Sienna Miyahira joined the Hokus Legacy Riders and began riding rodeos just two years ago.
“It’s a lot of fun, exciting, and you make a lot of memories and friends,” Miyahira said. “When you learn rodeo, you end up learning a lot more about your horse and how to ride in general.”
Miyahira recently moved to the Big Island from Oahu and has enjoyed immersing himself in the rodeo scene so much that he wants to compete in college.
“I want to do this during high school and eventually join a rodeo team in college,” Miyahira said. “I think for people who want to start, it’s important not to be nervous and it never hurts to try.”
Many parents have noticed changes in their keiki after starting rodeo competitions, including Miyahira’s mother, Napela Miyahira.
“He has learned a lot and has more control over his horse and has blossomed,” said Napela Miyahira. “There are so many lessons that he has taken home with her and stands out as a person from her, so we are very happy to be a part of Hoku Legacy Riders.”
Chesni Aku, 11, has grown more confident with each rodeo she has competed in.
“I used to be more worried about everything, but now I have a good time when I’m outside,” Aku said.
4-year-old Tinsley Cockroft competed in his first rodeo final and was happy to spend time with his horse.
“I’ve been a part of the rodeo scene for most of my life, and ever since I had kids, I wanted to make sure they were involved,” Tinsley’s mother, Summer Cockroft, said. “She loves it. Her favorite part of it is horseback riding and making new friends.”
In her second year with HKR, Zerin Menino emceed the finals and narrated all events for the crowd.
“I love finals because it’s the culmination of all-nighters, hard work, tireless hours in the rodeo,” Menino said. “Coming here and sharing the camaraderie and friendly competition is what it’s all about.”
Menino enjoys watching the seniors finish their high school rodeo careers and celebrating all they have accomplished over the years.
“All these kids put a lot of time and effort into the rodeo, and it’s amazing to see how they end up,” Menino said. “This is a very different sport, and it takes a lot of passion to do it. It’s not just you, you also have an equine companion. You have to develop skills while taking care of them, since they are taking care of you.”
Email Kelsey Walling at [email protected].