story by Siri Stevens Addison Gautreaux lives on a 4th generation farm outside Opelousas, Louis., where she is surrounded by cattle and horses, but once […]
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Meet the Member Olivia Thibodeaux
story by Michele Toberer
In a competitive rodeo state like Louisiana, becoming an all-around champion cowgirl in the junior high division of the Louisiana High School Rodeo Association is a pretty big feather for any cowgirl hat. After having injured horses and switching up her equine partners at the last minute, winning the title for Olivia Thibodeaux, of Church Point, Louisiana, was an accomplishment she’ll forever be proud of. The homeschooled 13-year-old 7th grader is no stranger to rodeo and competes in multiple events and associations. In her second year with LHSRA, she competed in team roping, ribbon roping, breakaway roping, goat tying, pole bending, and barrel racing. She clinched her 2019 LJHSRA Champion All-Around Cowgirl title with a champion pole bender title, reserve champion team roper and goat tyer titles, and fourth place finish in breakaway roping. She went on to Huron, South Dakota to compete in each of those events, and made her mark on the 2019 NJHFR.
Before the state finals, Olivia’s trusty palomino mare, Kate, was injured so Olivia’s sister, Lane, offered up her gelding, Olee, and Olivia placed in all 3 rounds of state finals, taking 2nd in breakaway roping in the 1st round. Olivia used another of Lane’s horses, Shortcut, to compete in team roping and Lane’s horse, Colonel, for barrel racing. Olivia was able to win 2nd in two rounds of barrel racing at the state finals on Colonel, who she used to compete in pole bending on before passing him on to Lane. Pole bending was the event she could relax some and ride Rebel, the 6-year-old sorrel she has ridden the past year that took her to a national reserve champion title as a 6th grader, and they were able to finish as the state champion pole bending duo this season. “Rebel is the man! We’re so grateful to Daniel Lyons, who we got Rebel and Colonel from. Some of the biggest titles my sisters and I have won have been on those two special horses.”
Since Olivia had competed in Huron last summer, she was more aware of how to prepare for the second largest rodeo in the world. “I practiced like I would for a normal rodeo, times 10! I broke it down throughout the day, and in the mornings, I’d run and do conditioning drills for goat tying. In the afternoons I’d rope calves and team rope, and I roped the dummy a lot.” Olivia is grateful to Stacey Martin, of Next Level Goat Tying, for her generosity and help with goat tying all season. Team roping was a new event for Olivia this year, and she enjoyed heeling for partner Ross Hebert. At nationals she used his calf horse, Storm, to heel on, and the Thibodeaux and Hebert families traveled out to Huron, South Dakota together. Olivia’s family includes her supportive parents, Rebekah and Neal Thibodeaux, and sisters; Lane, 10, Isabelle, 9, Sammy Jo, 6, and Clara, 2.
Olivia and Rebel reminded Huron who they were at the 2019 NJHFR with a 20.1-second run that gave them a second-go-round win in pole bending, after a muddy first-go. She was also excited to find success in her favorite event, breakaway roping, and while she intended to accept the generous offer to use Bray Aymond’s horse, Tuesday; the horse had to have emergency colic surgery, so she rode Olee. She qualified to Saturday evening’s short round after a 3.4-second run in performance 6, and a smoking 3.12 catch in performance 7. All of Olivia’s preparation paid off as she roped her third calf of the week in 3.59 seconds, leaving the competition as the 4th place in the world breakaway roper. Olivia is grateful to Braxton and Brandon Guillot for their help in preparing for this event and was excited to see Braxton qualify in the short round in both of his events, finishing as the 6th place in the world ribbon roper.
Competing in four events at the national finals didn’t leave Olivia much downtime, but she had a memorable trip and enjoyed spending time with her LHSRA family. She continues to aspire towards her goals by focusing on Bible verses that inspire her such as Philippians 4:13, and draws inspiration from the For King and Country’s song, Let my life be the proof of your love.