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Meet the Member Payton Schoeppach
story by Lily Landreth
Payton Schoeppach is the third generation of her family to rodeo and the first to take the family sport to numerous national stages. The 18-year-old from Lincoln, California, competes in her second Junior World Finals in December in both pole bending and barrel racing, while she finished her senior year of high school rodeo this summer with two state titles and a top-ten finish in the nation’s pole bending standings.
“I think that rodeo is just something I can’t live without,” says Payton. “I can’t imagine doing anything else, and I love having the bond with my horse.” She and her horse The Mafia Boss won the senior barrel racing with a 15.103 at the KK Run For Vegas qualifier, held in Las Vegas in August at Southpoint Arena. “I felt pretty confident about it,” Payton recalls. “We went to a race the week before in Utah and won the warm-up race at the Southwestern Desert Classic, so I knew he was feeling good and I was just lucky to win it (the qualifier).” Leading up to the Junior World Finals, Payton has been entering jackpots in smaller pens to prepare her barrel horse for the pattern in Vegas, and reviewing pole bending on her horse Tanner. “I like the (Finals) arena, and how they set it up at the convention center is really cool,” she adds. “My game plan is staying consistent. Last year I went into the short-go in third place and made a little tweak and it didn’t help, so now I’m just going in there consistent because I know what to do.”
Following after her grandpa, aunt, and her mother, Payton started rodeoing as soon as she could walk and worked her way into junior high and high school rodeo in California. She qualified for the NJHFR twice and the NHSFR three times. Through junior high and high school, Payton competed in every girl’s event, including cutting, and won 16 saddles, which now fill her family’s saddle room. She often hauls to rodeos with her mom, Anita, and for the Junior World Finals, her dad, John, will travel with them as well. “My parents have always been so supportive in trying to provide everything they can for me to be able to win,” says Payton. She also has an older sister named Brooke, and loves having dinners with her family and spending time together.
These days, barrel racing is Payton’s event of choice. “I’ve always loved doing it, and I’m definitely planning on going professional next year. The biggest challenge is probably keeping your horse 100 percent. Running barrels definitely takes a toll on them, so keeping them at their best is a lot of work,“ she explains. “I have a young horse now who’s two and I want to start futuritying him. Long term, my goal is to get a whole team of horses going and try to make the NFR someday. I’ll train some up and I definitely want to get more horses from the lady I bought Mafia Boss from. I love the way she trains them, and it fits my style.”
Through winning state finals in barrel racing this summer, Payton was awarded a PRCA permit, which she plans to fill in 2020. She’s currently working on her associate’s degree at Cuesta College in San Louis Obispo, California, and her goal is to go through dental hygiene school and work as a hygienist while rodeoing. In June she’s moving to Texas to further her professional barrel racing career. “I’m just going to see more rodeo opportunities,” she finishes. “I’ve always wanted to live out there.”