Meet the Member Slade Thompson
story by Julie Carter When you’re not naturally gifted with talent, you make it look like you are with try. Portales Junior High rough stock […]
story by Lindsay Humphrey
A membership with the Navajo Nation Rodeo Association was the ideal birthday present for 14-year-old Noah Gonzales of the Isleta Tribe. He’s set his sights on making the Indian National Finals Rodeo next fall. But first, he has some ground to cover in his final season with the NMJHSRA. “I was the state champion bull rider last year, and I’d like to do that again this year. I have some young, hot competition coming after me,” said the Edgewood, New Mexico, cowboy who’s currently leading the event. “I’m leading the bareback riding right now, so I might have a decent chance of winning it next summer. And my ribbon roping partner (Bailey Nunn) and I have only missed one calf so far, so we’re already doing better than last year.”
If COVID wouldn’t have canceled the 2020 junior high rodeo season, Noah would be in his third year with the NMJHSRA. He’s thankful he could rodeo last season, and is looking forward to the spring after having a successful fall. Last year Noah was competing in the saddlebronc riding, but now he’s trying his hand at bareback. “I’m not sure why bareback is easier for me than saddlebronc, but it might be because it’s similar to bull riding. I’ve ridden four out of six broncs, so I’m doing pretty good.” Leading his peers in the event is what Noah considers “pretty good” at the moment. But he knows his stiff competition can give him a run for his money at any moment.
“I really like seeing more kids coming up in the roughstock events. The NMJHSRA is now open to fifth graders and one of them is sitting second in the bulls. I hope I can be a good role model for those younger kids.” Noah is a role model for his peers, but also for his younger brothers – Roper, 11, and Colton, 10. They are both following their dad – Adam – into team roping rather than the roughstock. “I started out in the mutton busting when I was 3. I liked it from the very beginning. It was fun then and still is now.” Noah’s been riding calves, steers and bulls in various states ever since he got started.
“My mom (Cristine) and dad have been taking me ever since I was small. We’ve been to Colorado, Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma a few times, and Des Moines, Iowa, for junior high nationals last summer.” As the NMJHSRA champion bull rider, Noah headed to his first nationals nervous about his competition but confident in his skills. Noah covered his first two bulls, which earned him a spot in the short round. He didn’t make the eight and broke his collar bone when he came off his bull, but Noah still placed 15th in the world when the dust finally settled.
His first appearance at nationals wouldn’t have been possible without the help of several individuals. “The Griego family has let me come and practice with them quite a bit. We used to practice at least twice a week or every weekend.” Professional bull rider, Scotty Knapp, who’s also from New Mexico, has also been a big influence in Noah’s roughstock career. “I used to go workout with Scotty early in the mornings. I’m planning to start doing that again.”
Although his focus is mostly on bull riding, Noah has gotten quite a bit of help with the broncs also. Charlie, Levi and Luke Whitley, along with Rodrico Juarez, have been giving Noah pointers from the chutes for the past two years. Attending a Cody Custer bull riding school helped Noah improve the mechanics of his riding and Shane Faulkner is now his go-to for bareback riding tips. As the Edgewood Middle Schooler looks to the future, he intends to continue bull riding through high school and hopefully rodeo for a college team. “I just try to take care of my bull. Some people get on and want to beat someone, but I can’t think like that. I just worry about the ride in front of me.” With that mentality on hand, Noah will likely continue his trajectory of success.
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