For the audience, a rodeo is a show of skill for humans and animals. For the riders, herders, and wranglers, their few minutes are a test of all they’ve learned and loved since they started. For Rachel Slathar, a fresh graduate out of Central High School, the last five years of attending the Minnesota High School Rodeo have been not only an amazing experience, but one she continues on doing.
Slathar has been riding horses since she was four years old, and has practiced several different sports since she started. Running barrels and roping are just two that she named, but what she’s now gone to the finals in the Minnesota High School Rodeo for her skills in cutting.
Cutting is actually a fairly intensive sport. The horse rider starts out with a herd of cows, cutting the herd from different areas during the run. Eventually, during the two and half minutes each contestant receives, the rider selects one cow to keep away from the herd while the herd huddles along the edge of the arena.
But just keeping the cows separated isn’t the biggest part of it.
“Once you have the one cow, you put your hands down on the saddle,” said Slathar. “You have to use your legs to steer the horse.”
Horse riding involves a surprising amount of legwork. Everything from turns to speed control is just as much controlled by the rider’s legs as it is by their hands. To rely only on legs is a true test of trust and skill for the rider, especially with a cow that just wants to go back to the herd.
“It’s the most fun and stressful part,” she said. “You have to control the cow in the quietest way possible.”
Slathar has been working with her horse, Ricki Bobbi, since she started back in 8th grade. That first year, she “didn’t come close” to placing in the finals, but that changed quickly with practice. By 9th grade, she was at the very bottom of the finals. By her 3rd year in 10th grade, she had won the state competition. And this year she’s won it again.
“Everything you do in practice shows in the pen,” she said. “I’m really attached to Ricki Bobbi. He’s my teammate and we’ve grown a lot together.”
The next step up is going to The High School Rodeo National in Rock Springs on July 14 through 20. Last time she attended, she ended up at 17th in the nation, and definitely seeks to go even higher.
Now that she’s graduated, Slathar plans to move to Texas soon for school. And she doesn’t intend to stop showing while she’s down south either. In fact, Ricki Bobbi will eventually join her, hopefully before winter before he grows in his coat. For now, though, she’s practicing for the next competition while running her own business, Daisy if You Do Co., which makes wild rags for people and dogs of all ages as well as other products.
Slathar herself extended thanks to all those who helped her, particularly Joe Simon and Steve who have been her biggest supporters throughout her time in the rodeo.
“Without them, I wouldn’t have met Ricki,” she said.
As for her supporters, her father Ted Slathar also had some input about his daughter’s achievements and growth until now.
“It’s just been amazing to watch her,” he said. “Just how much she’s grown in the last couple years makes me proud.”