WHEATLAND – Easton Boyd who was born in Rapid City, S.D., was “born to the breed” of being a cowgirl, a cutter and perhaps a horse whisperer.
She is mentored not only by her father and mother, Tyler and Shonda Boyd, but also has two of the best horse cutting coaches in the Midwest in Traci Hayes-Hatten from True Ranches and Jim Whitcher, who owns and runs Whitcher Performance Horses in the badlands of South Dakota. And, oh yeah, Whitcher is her grandfather.
At age seven, the Boyd’s moved to Wheatland, although she doesn’t remember much about the move.
“We put her on a horse when she was really little,” said her mother, Shonda Boyd. “She didn’t really ride until about three years ago.”
Boyd, 16 has grown up around horses all of her life, but the amazing thing is that, with only three years under her belt of riding experience, she has qualified for the National High School Finals Rodeo competition which is being held at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Okla., July 17-23.
This is Boyd’s first trip to the national competition, and when many events have been canceled due to COVID-19, this venue is not only functional, but is hosting many larger events. Although she’s not been there before, she has been well-schooled by her parents as to what to expect.
The participants don’t know ahead of time when their competition is to be held. That information is not known until the day of their competition when a draw is conducted. The participants will get two chances to perform in what is called “long programs” in which they will compete against high school kids from all over the nation. The top point performers after the long programs will then qualify to do one more short program that will be judged and the winners will be chosen.
The cutting event which Boyd is a part of is different in that it is a judged event rather than a timed event. Essentially, you have to sort out three cows from the herd, one at a time and keep that cow away from the herd and it stops and faces you or turns and goes away from the rest of the cows. And you have two minutes to successfully do that.
“You have to get two cows,” Boyd said. “You have to get one big cut and a small cut. You go into the herd and you see one that you want which is usually a lazier, slower cow.”
To qualify, Boyd’s first cutting was in Jackson last September. At that point she had been trained by her grandmother and grandfather who are ranchers who do breeding, raising, training, and showing.
“Mom thought it was a great idea to take one of my barrel horses and cut with her,” she said. “This was only two weeks before competition and she was good.”
So, two weeks practice before she had ever done cutting, she was a quick study atop a top barrel horse. What could go wrong, right? Obviously, the wisdom of those who had been there before paid off because Boyd had a stellar qualifying and suddenly, she knew that she was born to that breed.
“She just had a sense of how to do it,” Shonda Boyd said. “We also had Traci Hatten from Trues who showed us the basics and the foundations of cutting. No way Easton would be where she is today without those foundations.”
Taking a horse with only two weeks training takes another sense. A feel to communicate in an animal’s realm. Boyd seems to have this talent as she not only understands a horse’s nature, but has the patient temperament to know what that horse needs.
Some call it horse whispering. Whether it’s a gentle touch to the mane or a kick to the sides, she seems to know. She has taken many horses that have had temperament problems and has been able to not only diagnose their problem, but also puts forth a prescription of care to change the temperament.
She talks them into trusting her, and anyone who knows how fear can take a horse out of control will tell you that trust must be established. Hopefully she has already convinced her barrel horse that it can be a Nationally ranked cutter.
WHEATLAND – For just having received a license to drive, 16-year-old Rayne Grant has been operating a horse without a license for 11 years. Since she was 5-years-old, she had rodeo in her blood and competing in her heart.
The home-schooled sophomore uses the Western Christian Academy curriculum and is an exemplary student not only in the classroom but also in the horse arena. She has qualified to go to the National High School Finals Rodeo competition which is being held at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Okla., July 17-23.
Originally the competition was going to be held in Lincoln, Neb., but due to COVID-19 the venue was changed to a larger facility and one that is a little more open. The family road trip to Guthrie with the family and horses will take somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 hours.
“I have been on horses all my life,” she said. “I’ve grown up with it. My parents have always been in rodeo and I started competing when I was 5 years old. I did barrel racing, pole bending and goat tying.”
It may be a stretch for anyone outside of Wyoming to grasp the concept that a little girl who needs help getting on a horse at 5 can be involved in such competitions, but out where the deer and buffalo play, it is common. When other kids were parked in front of a TV with a bowl of Lucky Charms watching My Little Pony, Grant was actually and literally riding her little pony.
“Since day one I’ve always had a love for it,” Grant said. “I’ve loved it so much with my horses and being around everybody and all the friends I’ve made.”
Grant’s parents are passionate about their involvement in rodeo, ranching and raising children. As kids, we see the excitement and the passion and naturally want to follow in the footsteps. Grant, however said that her parents never pushed or cajoled her into rodeo or competition and said that it was just a love in her own heart that has always driven her. She says that their encouragement and help has come more because of her own desire to participate.
“Competition has always been kind of a serious thing for me,” she said. “In junior high I kinda got more serious about it. I focused more on it and put more work into it. I started in the Platte County Horseman’s Association and then I also participated in the Torrington Youth Series. I went to those for a couple of years and kept working my way up.”
The fall rodeo season took place in the fall of 2019 long before the word “virus” was intimidating everyone. There were four rodeos at that time and at each rodeo the students have a chance to earn points toward the determination of who goes to the nationals.
“Because of COVID, we weren’t allowed to have a spring season,” Grant said. “Usually we have a spring rodeo in April and May and then our state finals in June, and because these were canceled, the point totals were a lot less.”
Although the points were less, they were still good enough to qualify Grant for barrels, poles and goat tying. She captured the award for state reserve champion for barrels, took third place in the poles and fourth in goat tying. She also won a customized saddle for winning the all-around competition. The only two things she didn’t qualify in were breakaway roping and team roping.
Grant’s 10-year-old mare, “Chili” who is her barrel and pole horse, won “Horse of the Year.”
“Overall, I am super excited and so thankful to be going,” she said. “In nationals last year I didn’t have any luck. It was a little frustrating, but I just tried to learn from it and moved on.”
Grant’s parents, Mike and Becky are not only parents, but teachers of all things rodeo. She also has two older sisters, Allie Eddington and Sam White who are grown and married.
“My parents have helped me so much,” she said. “They have helped me so much become where I am today.”