story by Laramie Dearing Living day to day full of high-spirited adventure and an immaculate amount of laughter, Riley Welch promotes a life brimful of […]
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Meet the Member Hegan Burton
story by Lily Weinacht
Hegan Burton is the third generation of his family to compete in the AJRA. A native of Sweetwater, Texas—home of the AJRA NFR—Hegan finished his fourth season in the AJRA last summer by winning the all-around and pole bending in the 8 and Under division. He was also reserve champion in the calf riding, and finished in the top five in the goat tying and breakaway roping. “I won two saddles, four or five buckles, and two halters,” says Hegan. “I keep the saddles nice in the house, and we have a big buckle case and we switch them around a lot.”
Now 9 years old, Hegan is competing in the 9–12 division in tie-down roping, breakaway roping, double mugging, and ribbon roping. He also hopes to continue riding roughstock as he gets older. “My family helps me out a lot and they really inspire me to do it,” says Hegan. “I have good friends in it, and I like getting better and working at it.” Hegan’s 11-year-old brother, Hondo, also competes in the AJRA in the same events as Hegan. “They get competitive with each other, but they’re also each other’s number one fan,” says their mom, Ashley Burton.
The brothers practice together often, and their 4-year-old sister, Hattie Jo, also enjoys riding. “Hondo helps me with my swing in calf roping, and we practice together in team roping,” says Hegan, whose main goal is to improve in heading, while Hondo loves to heel. Their dad, William Burton, rode bareback horses in the AJRA and is a team roper now, and their grandparents also support them and come watch many of their rodeos. Hegan’s grandpa Leonard Neatherlin rode bulls in the AJRA and continues to team rope, and he came to every one of Hegan’s rodeos last summer to help him with the calf riding. “We’d like to thank all the people who help us and are positive role models for Hegan and his brother and sister,” says Ashley.
Along with the AJRA, Hegan competes in the West Texas Rodeo Association, High Plains Rodeo Association, and the Texas Junior High Rodeo Association in the Region 2 Youth Division. Last year, Hegan also won his district in the beginner roping of the Original Team Roping Finals, while he won several saddles in pole bending and barrel racing on his horse Shorty. He also heads off of a gelding named Louie and ribbon ropes off of Lil Ears. “He has a big personality for a little horse. He’ll eat anything you give him,” Hegan explains. “The strangest thing he’s eaten is probably Lays potato chips or Fruit Loops.” Hegan also rides his horses to work on his family’s ranch. They raise Corriente, and Hegan particularly enjoys checking cattle and branding season.
He will be a fourth-grader this fall at Blackwell Elementary this fall, and along with rodeo, Hegan enjoys playing basketball and flag football. “He’s always smiling and ready to go with the flow,” says Ashley. “He always finds something positive.” Hegan plans to spend his summer break rodeoing, going to jackpots, and fishing at the lake with his grandparents. “We have catfish and carp. My grandparents save all their fish from the summer and at the end of the summer we have a big fish fry.