Local middle school student heading to rodeo nationals

Published 12:00 pm Friday, June 14, 2013

Drew Howard is headed to Gallup, N.M., to compete in the girl’s breakaway and barrel racing events at the National Junior High Finals Rodeo, which runs June 23-29.

Howard qualified for the National Junior High Finals Rodeo at a competition in Hattiesburg last weekend. The top four participants in each category from this competition go on to represent Mississippi in New Mexico, said Shannon Howard, Drew’s mother.

Drew, a seventh grade student at Poplarville Middle School, has competed year round with the Mississippi Junior High Association for the past three years. Drew competed in 18 rodeos this year and in 2012 was named the Mississippi Rookie of the Year, said Shannon.

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Shannon Howard said Drew has been riding horses since she was a little girl, but her interest in competing started when she was about seven years old. Drew’s interest in competing in rodeos comes from watching her father’s family participate in rodeos. Drew said she started competing in fourth grade.

“I’ve always wanted to ride. I started barrel racing and I just loved it and was more into it than I thought I would,” said Drew.

While Drew qualified for nationals in the breakaway and barrel riding events, she also normally competes in pole bending, goat tying, and ribbon roping.

Besides practicing about one to two hours every day, Drew also helps train and take care of her horses, Scooter and Dusty. Along with the help of her aunt, Rita Shaw, Drew is training a new horse as a backup for Scooter, Drew’s pole bending and barrel racing horse.

“I wouldn’t be anywhere right now without my horses. I’m so blessed to have them. I don’t know what’d I do without them. They’re like my babies,” said Drew.

This will be Drew’s second year qualifying for Nationals and she says this year it is a different feeling getting to Nationals. Last year, she only qualified for one event, barrel racing, and this year she will also be competing in breakaway. Shannon Howard said Drew  just started competing in breakaway last year and she has worked very hard to qualify for nationals in that category this year.

When Drew attends nationals, she will ride two times for each event. The top 20 in each category will then go on to compete in the finals for scholarship money.

Drew says she enjoys going to nationals because she gets to meet people from all over the world. This year participants will represent 41 states, Canada, and Australia.