story by Jet Toberer Second-generation team roper, Eli Woodyard, of small town Max Meadows, Virginia, has been roping since he was 8 years old, and […]
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Meet the Member Etta Merritt
story by Kyle Eustice
For 4-year-old Etta Merritt, rodeo is a family affair. Her older sister Ruia Merritt rodeos in the JRSRA and mother Bonnie is a past junior and high school rodeo champ in North Carolina, who still competes today. Her father Matt is the exclusive entertainer for the PBR Velocity Tour and works numerous PRCA rodeos annually.
As one of the JSRA’s youngest members, Etta has quickly gravitated towards events like barrel racing, pole bending and goat tying, but according to Bonnie, barrel racing on her horse Flash is her favorite.
“Etta began riding a horse on a lead line and learned the proper way to ride in the saddle before being given the reigns,” explained Bonnie. “It also helps a lot when you trust your horse. Flash is a 28-year-old that has never done anything to scare Etta.”
Born and raised in Olin, North Carolina, Etta currently lives on a working farm with chickens, ducks, turkeys, goats, and of course, horses. Etta loves incubating eggs and hatching out babies. As a pre-Kindergartner at the First Baptist Church in Statesville, she will eventually be homeschooled on the A-Beca program once she is old enough. For now, Etta is happiest when riding her horses.
“Etta joined the JSRA in 2016 where she made the finals,” said Bonnie. “She was the youngest competitor there.”
Etta’s great grandfather, who went by the name Jack Laws, was one of the founding fathers of the JSRA. It has been a family tradition to be a rodeo athlete in this association. Etta practices multiple times a week and has also recently become involved in gymnastics, where she has just made it to the advanced preschool group, but to her parents, it’s clear she’s at home on her horse and while competing.
“Etta’s favorite part about competition is actually getting to sing Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’ in the truck just before she does her thing,” said Bonnie. “Etta is working hard to be more competitive at pole bending and goat tying as they are next on her agenda.”
Etta is sponsored by a bevy of companies who believe in the young rider and that list includes Realtime Pain Relief, Olathe Boots, Atwood Hats, 100x Helmets, Wrangler, and Ridin’ Dirty. For now, Etta is focused on becoming a strong rider and looking forward to competing this summer.