Farm Progress

Show-Me Youth: Young cowboys compete together at national rodeo event.

Mindy Ward, Editor, Missouri Ruralist

December 6, 2016

3 Min Read

It is hard to tell which is larger — the 10-gallon hats on their heads or the grins on their faces. Tyler Acree and Dalton Gatrel are two young boys from northwest Missouri who love rodeo, but more importantly, they love competing together.

Tyler is from Polo and Dalton is from Cowgill. They enjoy training horses, roping, doing gymnastics on horseback, trick roping and whip cracking. They are real cowboys, helping take care of the livestock at their family farms.

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The two formed a bond while traveling together competing in rodeo events at age 4. Now, after four years, these two young cowboys are headed to Las Vegas to compete in the top bareback riding event: the International Mini Bareback Riding Competition.

Starting off right
The two started out riding sheep in mutton-busting competitions. In this event, a sheep is held either in a chute or by an adult handler, while the rider — a child — is placed on top. Then the sheep is released and starts running, until the rider reaches the end of the arena or falls off.

The boys quickly mastered the event and graduated to bucking ponies. Unlike the bareback riding of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association that requires riders to stay on the horse for eight seconds, these younger riders must hang on for four seconds. Not an easy task for an 8-year-old.

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But the two young riders have spent hours practicing and traveling to rodeos to hone their skill. They have been working hard improving their skills in the hopes of qualifying for Las Vegas as part of the National Youth Finals Rodeo experience. The boys practiced for hours riding their ponies at home, went to a winter series of rodeos, asked for advice and help from veteran bronc riders — and just worked hard, according to Jennifer Gatrel, Dalton’s mother.

“I have been so impressed with the boys’ constant effort and trying,” she says. “They just absolutely love the sport and the other competitors. They have formed a family that will likely be with them the rest of their lives. Both boys almost literally eat, sleep and breathe bucking ponies.”

Living the dream
All of their efforts paid off in October when both boys competed in the Midwest region competition to determine who advances to Las Vegas. Tyler won the competition, and Dalton tied for second place with another boy. But in true cowboy fashion, that young rider offered to let Dalton go to Vegas if he could have the belt buckle award. So, Dalton gave up the buckle so he and Tyler could compete together again in Las Vegas.

“I am super excited to go to Vegas. It has always been a dream of mine,” Dalton says. “I would like to thanks my parents and Valerie Acree, as well as the McKellips Rodeo for making my dream happen.”

For Tyler, being able to experience the National Youth Finals Rodeo is an honor. “The YFR is the super bowl of rodeo,” he says. “For me, rodeo is a privilege and hard work — but I love it.” Tyler wants to thank his family and fans, McKellips Rodeo, Gatrel Land and Cattle Co., Diamond Bar C, and Scott and Noah Priess for helping with his rodeo journey.

About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

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