story by Michele Toberer Nineteen-year-old BJ Billingsley has been a member of the Arkansas Cowboys Association for four years, competing as a tie-down roper. BJ […]
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Meet the Member Paige Mitchell
story by Michele Toberer
“I’ve learned life lessons through rodeo; to work hard and never give up, and most importantly to be a fierce competitor, humble winner, and a gracious loser,” claims Paige Mitchell of Pocahontas, Arkansas. At just 14, rodeo has taken up a major portion of her focus since she was 5 and she’s been competing in the Arkansas Cowboys Association for the past 4 years as a barrel racer.
Paige lives with her parents; Cassie an LPN at First Choice Healthcare, and Jonathan who works for a rock crusher company in Cord, Arkansas. She has one 13-year-old brother, Hunter, who also competes in the ATRA as a breakaway roper. Paige is an eighth grader at Pocahontas Junior High and is in the National Junior Honor Society, and Link, a drug-free educational program. Paige has been a dedicated clogger since she was 4, and the group she clogs with weekly, Marr Street Productions, performs at local events. Paige is also an active member of the First Freewill Baptist Church. With some of her free time, Paige gives riding lessons to local children.
Paige started competing in the Junior Professional Rodeo Association, where at 5, she won the Mutton Busting and Buckaroo Barrel Racing Champion titles. She competed on a little red roan pony named Rusty Bucket for two years. In 2009, her dad traded a cow for a sorrel mare named Spot (because of the large white spot on her forehead) and her barrel racing career really started off. “She was laid-back, but I won so many buckles on her.” In 2012, she and Spot won the 3D Family Rodeo Association’s Champion Beginner Barrel Racing, Pole Bending, and Goat Tying titles, as well as claiming the Randolph County Rodeo Princess title; winning the exact same titles again in 2014. For the 2017 ACA season, Paige was riding a quick barrel horse named Cash until he went blind in his left eye. Paige’s brother had recently purchased a sorrel gelding named Whipperwill and she convinced Hunter to let her try him on barrels and began working with the now 10-year-old gelding.
“I was grateful to have Whip to fall back on and I rode him to finish the 2017 ACA season, ending up in seventh-place. In 2018, Whip helped me win the ACA Champion Junior Barrel Racer title, ATRA Champion Junior Barrel Racing title, the Mike Watson Summer Series rodeos at Ash Flat, and the Cave City Watermelon Festival Average Champion title.” Whip was also named as the 2018 ACA Junior Barrel Racing Horse of the Year. “At first Hunter was disappointed that I was riding him all the time and my family would pick on me and say he should charge me to ride him. He thought that was a marvelous idea and started charging me $10 each time I rode him. Since we had so much success last year, he’s saying my fees are going to go up to $20,” Paige laughed. “Whip is so laid back and calm, I use him for kids to ride in my lessons, and I always feel protected and that he’ll keep me safe. When I get on and am ready to run, I know he’s always going to give me his best.”
Paige is grateful to have a wonderful support system surrounding her. Her grandparents, Terrie and Charles Seagraves, and Alesa and Danny Mitchell support her and Hunter in all they do. Dusty Carr always helps her and assisted the family in finding both Cash and Whip. “Jill Crowder has helped me a lot with riding Whip and she and her mom, Janet Crowder are two of the reasons I made it where I did last year. And, without the good Lord, I wouldn’t be able to anything I do today.”
Paige would like to go to Louisiana State University and become an equine veterinarian but intends to keep a rodeo career going through it all. “The sport of rodeo isn’t just about riding horses and winning money. It’s about spending time with family and making friends that become family. It’s cheering for your friends that you’re competing against no matter what the outcome, because friendship always comes first in my book.”