Meet the Member Payton Gafford


story by Jennie Lawrence

Bouton, Iowa cowgirl Payton Gafford was in the third grade when she decided to take up bull riding. Her mom ran barrels growing up, and rode bulls in high school. Her dad also rode bulls in high school. That made Payton want to ride them too. Her parents kept telling her no. They finally decided she could try mutton busting. She rode the sheep backwards and won her first buckle. Payton then asked again if she could move up to bulls.
Her parents finally let her ride her first bull at a Tuff ‘n’ Nuff Miniature Rodeo Association (TMRA) event. She drew a bull named Chrome. Her father helped her get on. She also met her first rodeo friend, Kenley, who helped her out that day and has every day since. The cowgirl fell in love with bull riding after that.
The following year she rode broncs and ran barrels as well, so she could win the All-Around Cowgirl buckle. She accomplished that goal, winning the title two-years in a row. She finally settled on barrel racing as her event. Payton has been a member of the International Miniature Rodeo Association (IMRA) for a year. She is also a member of the TMRA.
Payton is the daughter of Traci, a preschool teacher, and Andrew Gafford, a demolition contractor. She has no brothers or sisters. No one else in the family rodeos now. Her family helped her get started in the sport, and her grandparents Shannon and John Anderson provided her with her current barrel horse. Keeta is a 12-year-old paint mare. “She was started, and I finished her out,” Payton said. Keeta is also Payton’s favorite animal. “She’s really sassy, but its fun to have a little spunk!”
She credits her father with being her biggest supporter. “I can always hear him during my run saying, ‘All the way.’ He says that every time.”
Payton says Amberly Snyder is her rodeo heroine. Snyder has shown Payton that if you work hard, it will pay off in the end. Payton has also learned that you have to be patient while waiting for that pay off.
She believes in positive thinking. When she is tacking up Keeta for a rodeo, and getting her warmed up, she gets her thoughts in a good place. She tells herself, “Go out there and do your best. It’s all you can do.” This type of self-talk is how she keeps her positive mindset.
Payton also likes to listen to Cody Johnson’s music before she rides. His songs help relax her when she gets nervous. Her favorite song by the artist is, “Y’all People.”
The young cowgirl goes to at least 20 rodeos a year. She also attends National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA) races where ever and whenever she can. She plans to go to the Bonus Race World Finals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this year. Her favorite rodeo road trip meal is breakfast. She likes hash browns, eggs, and sausage.
Payton is 13-years-old. She is in the seventh grade at Dallas Center Grimes school. Her favorite subject is science. She says she is good at science, and it will help her with her future goals. Those goals include becoming a veterinarian, and being a world champion barrel racer.
She also runs track and plays volleyball. When she is not in school, rodeoing, or participating in her other sports, she enjoys trail riding with Keeta.
Her favorite part of attending rodeos is the energy. “Everyone is always so fun to be around and it makes rodeos really enjoyable,” she said. Payton would like to thank all of her supporters. That includes her great-grandpa Smith. She calls him after each rodeo to tell him how she did. Her grandparents are also supporters, along with Kirby Berry, her friends, Johnny Hopkins (TMRA stock contractor), and all of her sponsors over the years. “We are so blessed to know so many wonderful people to help her reach her goals,” her mother said.
Payton’s favorite quote is very similar to one by Nelson Mandela. “A winner is a dreamer who never gave up.” She proves this to be true.

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