story by Julie Carter Hailing from the Steer Wrestling capitol of the Navajo Nation, Crownpoint, NM, the 17-year-old Tsosie twins, Tyra and Tydon, have made […]
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Meet the Member Natalie Larabee
story by Lindsay King
At 16 years old, Natalie Larabee is the youngest of four – Emily, 25, Morgan, 20, and Lindsey, 21. She’s also the only one of her siblings who got serious about rodeo. “When I was little I can remember always going to small rodeos with my family. My dad has always owned horses and roped a little, but nobody in my family has ever competed at the level that I do. It’s something that I have explored on my own,” said the 16-year-old. And the level Natalie is talking about just so happens to be nationals. In the 8th grade, she took 8th in the nation in the goat tying. As a sophomore, Natalie is looking to get back to one of the biggest stages of high school rodeo.
“A week before state last year, at a local rodeo, I was getting some runs in when my breakaway horse kicked me in the knee.” Sitting third in the state, all Natalie had to do was tie clean and she would punch her ticket. “I drew a really good goat, but my knee was really bad and I fell during my run.” Natalie missed nationals by only two points. After state finals, Natalie didn’t rodeo or play sports while letting her knee heal properly. “I just had to realize it wasn’t about winning, it was about the process of getting there. Sometimes I lose focus of the bigger picture of rodeo.” As a five-event athlete, Natalie has a lot to capture her attention.
Sitting third in the state for goat tying, Natalie is hoping to recreate her first trip to nationals. “That was one of my favorite trips ever. My whole family got to go, even my grandparents from Nebraska came up.” Eight days in a horse trailer with her entire family and parked right next to her teammates was heaven for Natalie. Meeting people from all over the globe was just a fringe benefit. “I really love the environment of rodeo and how it is based a lot on faith. Everyone is so friendly too.”
It was a couple of friends that got Natalie into rodeo in the first place and they have only continued to bolster her decision to make it her main priority as a sport. This New Mexico transplant now lives in Midland, Texas, but continues to rodeo in her home state with the NMHSRA. It’s her friends that Natalie misses the most about her hometown. “New Mexico is a lot smaller than Texas, so we are really tight. I’ve roped with most of my friends my whole life.” Natalie only recently started team roping at more than just jackpots. Learning the ropes of her other four events – barrels, poles, goat tying and breakaway roping – from scratch set her up for success. “I’ve always known how to team rope and done it with my friends, but once you get in the arena to be serious about it the game changes some.”
Dan and Cheryl, Natalie’s parents, have learned a lot about rodeo right alongside their youngest daughter. “My dad has always been a coach for one sport or another. He knows how to break things down for me so I can understand them better. And he’s really good at focusing on the little things that make a big difference.” One of those details is follow through in roping. Natalie compares it to the follow required for a nothin’ but net free throw. “Rodeo has really made my mom and I get close. We both have a special love for it, so we have learned it all together and that’s been cool.” Still undecided between becoming a veterinarian or breaking into the world of business, one thing is for sure: Natalie doesn’t plan on leaving rodeo in the wake.