CASA GRANDE -- While most kids are out of school enjoying their summer vacation, a handful in Pinal County and their four-legged partners are gearing up to compete at rodeo nationals in South Dakota and Wyoming.

Maryn Buchanan and Tayler Kent will be two of 27 youths representing the county at the National Junior High Finals Rodeo and the National High School Finals Rodeo.

Buchanan is a home-schooled eighth-grader from Eloy who qualified to compete in ribbon roping, goat tying, breakaway roping and pole bending.

Kent is a ninth-grader at ASU Preparatory Academy in Casa Grande who will compete in cutting.

Competing in rodeo provides a different experience than the sports that go on during the school year. While competing in state, the youths become very familiar with each other as they are usually competing against each other at every rodeo.

Although Kent and Buchanan live in different cities, they’re the best of friends who cheer each other on during competitions.

“We both got our horses from the same place for breakaway,” Buchanan said. “We rope together all the time. We’re like a big rodeo family rather than comrades. If I don’t do good in one event I cheer her on and hope she does better than me.”

Kent and Buchanan agreed that the breakaway roping event is their favorite to compete in.

“I like it because my horse always gives me the same shot every time and it’s fun to do,” Kent said. “It’s never boring.”

Buchanan added that she’s not very fond of competing in pole bending or ribbon roping.

“Ribbon roping is where I have to run from wherever distance (my horse) catches it,” Buchanan said. “Whether it’s at the end of the arena or somewhere else I have to run all the way back, so that’s not something you want to do. I guess breakaway would be my favorite.”

Buchanan qualified for the junior high rodeo last year and admitted that the whole experience was a little overwhelming for her.

“It was a big event,” Buchanan said. “I probably wasn’t prepared enough, but now I’m ready and I have a feeling for it.”

Although this will be Kent’s first year competing at nationals, she is not new to the atmosphere.

“I’ve always gone and watched my brother compete so I know what it’s like to see all the people that you compete against and how many people are there,” Kent said. “It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s exciting to just be there getting to compete against the best kids that there are and try to win a title.”

Both Kent and Buchanan ride different horses in the events they compete in and added that it takes a lot of practice and understanding to be able to compete well and qualify for nationals.

“It’s hectic because each one is different,” Buchanan said of training each horse. “It’s like people — no person is similar. Once I’ve practiced I know that I’m going out there and I’m giving it my all. If it doesn’t go well, I know I’ve done all that you can do. I rely on my horse because they’re kind of like your security blanket, I guess you could say to keep you calm.”

Kent will compete in the high school rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyoming, July 14-20.

“I like that you get to compete against people and you get to go to nationals, which is a pretty good experience to have,” Kent said. “It’s fun to ride a bunch of different horses and compete in stuff you love to do.”

Buchanan will travel to Huron, South Dakota, for the junior high rodeo, which runs June 23-29.

“I’m looking forward to meeting new people and learning how they prepare,” Buchanan said. “I’m just looking at getting up there in my rodeo career and seeing how well I can take it, win a title maybe. It’s a new experience, it’ll be exciting.”

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