story by Siri Stevens Bella Kate (BK) is no stranger to the rodeo lifestyle. She started competing in her local riding club in Sulphur, Louisiana […]
Association MemberJoin Rodeo News
Meet the Member Olivia Thibodeaux
story by Michele Toberer
With a 2014 National Little Britches Rodeo Association World Champion Pole Bending buckle already on her belt, Olivia Thibodeaux is no stranger to what it takes to win. At just 12 years old, winning in rodeo is something that she has already experienced many times, yet she spends hours every week preparing to repeat. When Olivia was just 5 years old, she and her family traveled to Wyoming to watch her cousin, Chelsea Carroll compete at the College National Finals Rodeo in breakaway roping and goat tying, and the experience set the young cowgirl on the path she is on today. “On the way home from watching my cousin, I told my parents, ‘I want to rodeo,’ I loved it.” Her supportive parents, Neal and Rebekah Thibodeaux, rallied alongside their young daughter with gold buckle dreams, and began to do all they could to support her goals. Neal had a background in rodeo and competed for several years as a bullrider in PRCA rodeos.
Starting out, Olivia entered all the events available in her age group at NLBRA and Acadiana Youth Rodeo Association rodeos, encouraging her palomino mare, Kate to try it all. Kate is a headstrong little horse, now 12 years old, and she was willing to try all the events, but has ended up excelling as a breakaway and goat tying horse. At age 7, Olivia went to her first NLBRA Finals in 2013 and she and Kate won a 3rd place world title in flag racing. Olivia also competed at the 2014 and 2015 NLBRA Finals and is competing in both the NLBRA and LJHSRA this season.
Olivia lives in Church Point, Louisiana with her parents and four sisters, Lane, 9, Isabelle, 8, Sammy Jo, 5, and 1-year-old, Clara. Olivia’s sisters are also experiencing success in the rodeo arena; between Olivia, Lane and Isabelle, the girls have won a a total of 17 saddles, and a multitude of buckles and other awards. The dedicated girls practice every day, either at home or traveling nearby to get help with training. They travel 40-minutes each way to rope with Mr. Kevin Fontenot, approximately an hour each way to get goat tying instruction from Stacy Martin; and they travel close to 2-hours each way to train with Shanna Thomas in barrel racing and pole bending.
For barrel racing, Olivia started riding Colonel, who is now 10 years old. “We’ve had him since he was a 2 year old, he’s really fast but he’s goofy, he plays around and always sticks his top lip out.” She initially rode him in pole bending, and the two won the NLBRA World Champion Pole Bending title in 2014. Two years ago, Olivia got a sorrel quarter horse named Rebel and started using him for goat tying while Kate was injured. After Kate recovered, Rebel become her main pole bending horse, “He’s really smooth and easy to ride, and he’s fun.”
Responsibility is definitely something that is learned at home by the Thibodeaux girls, as they are homeschooled. Olivia and her sisters take care of her horses, and the family dogs, Fred and Lee, and Olivia helps clean the kitchen and outside porch each week. She is somewhat of a natural mathemetician and claims math as her favorite school subject. Since her parents were both born and raised in Louisiana, and most of her dad’s family lives right in Church Point, Olivia and her sisters enjoy having many cousins around. Neal works for the Thibodeaux family business, Bob’s Tree Preservation, providing tree care services for both residential and commercial customers.
Olivia is grateful for the help she’s received from a dear family friend, Daniel Lyons, “He’s such a nice man, Colonel and Rebel both came from Mr. Daniel, he helps so many kids and our family really appreciates him.” Mia Manzanares is someone who Olivia really looks up to, “Mia is so nice, and a very hard worker, I’ve been fortunate to go to her house and rope calves and tie goats.” Olivia would like to go to college and rodeo for McNeese State University one day, just like Mia does.
As Olivia aspires to reach her goals, Bible verses, Matthew 20:28 “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” and Philippians 4:13 “I can do all this through him who gives me strength,” are words that fuel her on to do her best.