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Mesilla Elementary student qualifies for junior world rodeo finals


Morgan Parra is only 11 years old, but she is already shaking things up in the world of rodeo.

In February, Morgan was featured in the National High School Rodeo Association Times magazine as the “professional’s choice student-athlete of the month” for barrel racing, Las Cruces Public Schools said in a news release.

The love for horses and rodeo has been a staple in Morgan’s family for many generations, LCPS said. Born and raised in Las Cruces, her love for horses came from riding with her father at an early age. Morgan’s father grew up team roping in rodeos.

“My dad got me into riding horses and has always wanted me to compete in rodeos with him,” Morgan said. “I’ve been riding horses since before I could walk. My dad would ride with me, I always loved it.”  

Each day, Morgan dedicates time for riding. But growing up, her parents instilled the importance of putting education first, the news release said.

Morgan said her teachers motivate her daily to work hard in the classroom. Her parents and friend, Peyton Shelley, encourage her to do her best in rodeo and offer support and guidance as mentors, allowing Morgan to improve her time in barrel racing, LCPS said. Morgan enjoys riding doubles with her younger sister, Maddison, keeping the love for riding in the family. 

Morgan believes horses need good exercise and it takes time for them to get into shape to run and perform at a high level. She adds it takes a lot of effort to feed, care, and train a horse for competition.

For barrel racing, the rider takes off as fast as she can around three barrels in a cloverleaf pattern and out the alley again. The rider must be skilled to make tight turns around barrels without knocking them over. If a barrel is knocked over, time is added to the rider’s final race time.

During the pandemic, Morgan discovered how much riding helped her focus, allowing her to feel calm, the news release said. She used riding as an escape during a time when social gatherings were limited and found solace riding her horses, Zeus and Bucket.  

“I work hard every time I compete and work to become better than I was the last time,” Morgan said. “When I give my horses my best efforts, they give their best to me, too.” 

Earlier this year, Morgan set a goal to qualify for the YETI Junior World Finals in Las Vegas, Nevada. To help get her there, she babysits, does farm work and takes time to help her grandparents at their restaurant, LCPS said.

To qualify for Las Vegas, Morgan entered a qualifier race in Clovis, New Mexico. She took second and third place in two separate events during the competition, which landed her a spot in the barrel racing competition at the YETI Junior World Finals Dec. 1-10. The finals will host more than 800 contestants within the Wrangler Rodeo Arena.