Meet the Members: The Thibodeaux Family

by Rodeo News
The Thibodeaux family. Olivia and Lane each won a saddle in the Deridder Riding Club  - courtesy of the family

The Thibodeaux family. Olivia and Lane each won a saddle in the Deridder Riding Club – courtesy of the family

story by Lily Weinacht

The Thibodeaux family – Neal and Rebekah and their four daughters, Olivia, Lane, Isabelle, and Sammi – began their rodeo adventure in 2010. It quickly turned into a lifestyle for the family from Church Point, La. Although Rebekah had never rodeoed, Neal had a background in roughstock, riding bulls in the PRCA and Bull Riders Only for six years after he finished high school. He and Rebekah took Olivia to watch her cousin, Chelsea Carroll, compete at the CNFR about five or six years ago, and on the way home, Olivia informed them that she wanted to rodeo like her cousin. Little did the family know that their daughter’s rodeo addiction would send them on a yearly 1,000 mile trek to Pueblo, Colo., where Olivia won the Little Wrangler world pole bending title in 2014.
“I think we eased into it pretty well!” says Rebekah. “We never thought in a million years that we’d be running barrels and poles. We thought Olivia would do some goat tying and roping, but when her little pole horse, Colonel, turned out to like it so much, we got thrown into it all!” They heard about Little Britches from Chelsea’s family and took a trip to Colorado to find out more. “We got there and found a level of competition that we hadn’t seen anywhere else, and it brought out the best in the girls.”
Olivia (nine), is the oldest of the four girls, while her sister, Lane (seven), qualified for the NLBFR for the first time in 2015. Isabelle (six), recently joined them in the arena, and their youngest sister, Sammi (three), is not far behind. “We’re going to take a year off from Little Britches and rejoin next year. Isabelle isn’t quite ready for it yet, and we’re going to get Olivia roping more,” Rebekah explains. “We’ve done Cajun Little Britches and Louisiana Little Britches, and while we take our year off, we’ll do local rodeos and some open youth rodeos in Texas.”
Olivia will be a junior girl in the association in 2016, and she’ll be competing in breakaway roping, pole bending, barrel racing, trail, and goat tying. Pole bending remains one of her favorite events, though breakaway roping is becoming another favorite. “It’s fun, and I like doing it whether I miss or catch!” says Olivia. She finished the 2015 NLBFR sixth in the world in the goat tail untying, and seventh in the world in barrel racing. She continues to ride Colonel in barrels and poles, while she uses Shorty in trail and Kate in the goat tying and breakaway roping. During the finals, Olivia and Lane shared Kate in the Little Wrangler flag racing. “Each round this year, they were up in the same performances,” says Rebekah. “Thankfully, my husband is a fast saddler!”
Lane achieved her goal for the year of making the short-go of the NLBFR in flag racing. She competes in all four Little Wrangler events, though the fast pace in pole bending is her favorite. In addition to Kate, she rides Cutter in pole bending and barrel racing, and her pony, John, in goat tying. Cutter, who belongs to the girls’ barrel and pole trainer, Bobby Labby, is 27 years young, and Lane recently ran her fastest time of a 20.9 on him in poles.
Isabelle competes in the same events as Lane and shares John and Shorty with her, although Shorty is Isabelle’s favorite to ride. “He listens well,” Isabelle explains. In addition to their horses, the Thibodeaux family also has a dog, Fred, who keeps watch over their home while the family is out rodeoing. Olivia, Lane, and Isabelle practice daily, seeking cover only if it’s raining, and even then, they’re roping the dummy. The sisters are coached by Bobby Labby and Justin Browning, the rodeo coach at McNeese State University. Their cousin, Chelsea, introduced them to Justin, who coaches the girls several times a month.
When they’re not on horseback, Olivia, Lane, and Isabelle stay busy with their Breyer horses, jumping on their trampoline, or playing in their tree house. All three girls are homeschooled. Olivia, a fourth grader, enjoys math, and Lane, a second grader, prefers reading, while Isabelle, a first grader, especially likes handwriting.
As they anticipate returning to Little Britches next August, Olivia and Lane share similar goals, each hoping to win the world all-around title in their age division. “We’re excited about the finals being in Oklahoma,” says Rebekah. “It will be an eight hour drive instead of 15 hours. Rodeo is pretty much what we do,” she adds, “and I want the girls to do their best with the opportunities given to them. The Lord has placed amazing people and horses along our path and I want the girls to use those opportunities to always give Him the glory. For without Him, none of this is possible. My goal for them is to be humble champions.”

Lane competing at the 2015 NLBFR - Olivia competing at the 2015 NLBFR -


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