Meet the Member Isaiah Chavez
story by Julie Carter His personal hero is Trevor Brazile so there’s not much doubt in what Isaiah Chaves believes he can accomplish: “Whatever I […]
story by Lindsay Humphrey
Very few people get the opportunity to compete on their childhood unicorn through high school rodeo. But that’s exactly the case for Gabriella Pargas of Grants, New Mexico, and her mare, Popcorn. “We bought Popcorn when she was a 3-year-old and I was also three at the time,” said the now 18-year-old. “We’ve pretty much taught each other everything we know. I still compete on her in the poles and she’s the horse I took to nationals in sixth grade.” Gabriella and Popcorn headed to Lincoln, Nebraska, last month for their second shot at a national title in the poles. Throughout her time in the NMHSRA, Gabriella also competed in barrels, team and breakaway roping.
A firm believer in giving credit where it’s due, Gabriella is quick to thank Popcorn, as well as her other mounts, for her time with the NMJHSRA and NMHSRA. “I really look up to Jackie Hobbs Crawford because she always gives the credit and praise to her horses. I know I wouldn’t be anywhere without my horses. They’re always trying their best and rodeo truly is a team event between horse and rider.” Gabriella also admires Jackie’s outward expression of her faith. As a devout Catholic, Gabriella knows God is always by her side. She keeps Psalm 46:5 handy, “God is within her and she will not fail.”
As Gabriella prepares to leave the northern half of the state, she’s reflecting on her time in high school rodeo. Like many of her peers, a lot of that time was spent riding with professional horseman Jerry Kimsey. “I’ve learned a lot of horsemanship skills from Jerry. He taught me how to listen to and become one with the horse. He’s local to Grants, but he’s trained a lot of people all over the state.” Now a graduate of Grants High School, Gabriella is headed south to Las Cruces, the home of both New Mexico State University and her 21-year-old sister, Dominique. The pair will rodeo together for the next year for the NMSU Aggies.
“I’m really looking forward to living with my sister and being able to rodeo with her again. You have to be out practicing basically every day if you want to be good and getting to do that with my sister who is basically my best friend just makes it that much better.” Thanks to Gabriella’s dad, Dominick, who is a retired state police captain, this cowgirl has taken an interest in criminal justice. “My dad has told me so many stories from his time with the state police that I just decided I wanted to be a crime scene investigator. I would like to work for the FBI one day.” Those career goals also come with plans to continue rodeo for the foreseeable future.
Neither of Gabriella’s parents grew up in rodeo, but they both have connections to horses. “My dad mainly used horses for hunting and my mom (Gloria) used them for ranching. It was a little difficult getting into rodeo just because my family didn’t know anything about the different events.” Both Gabriella and her sister started out on a lead line at 4-H rodeos and gymkhanas. This quickly led to junior rodeos and the rest, as they say, is history. “My parents had me on a horse as soon as possible and I just fell right in love with them. We basically went into rodeo blind, but that taught me to be very persistent. I’m a very competitive person but it’s not just about winning for me, it’s about doing the best that I can.”
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