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Local second grader makes name competing in rodeos

At seven-years-old, Loper second grader Hunter Richards has had quite the success competing in rodeos. He represents Shelby County at every competition he attends.

By KATRINA BRANSON - kbranson@shelbynews.com

At just the age of seven, local second grader Hunter Richards has had quite the success competing in rodeos. Attending Loper Elementary, Richards represents Shelby County at every competition he attends.

The love for rodeo came from his mother – a native of Louisiana.

“I rodeoed in high school,” said Deborah Richards, who is Hunter's mom. “I even went to state and nationals in high school for it.”

In his first year competing, the younger Richards is finding success. The seven-year-old competes in calf roping, mutton busting and dummy steer roping among other events.

“Mutton busting is riding a sheep for six seconds,” explained Deborah.

“One time I came in first place, because I stayed on the whole six seconds. I got $20,” added Hunter.

Hunter competed over the winter in Cloverdale at the Midwest Youth Rodeo Association. He came away with a third place finish.

“It's where he started all of this,” said Deborah. “He came in third there. One weekend a month we would go up there – that's the bad thing, you have to travel. That's where he started and it's a pretty big arena. It's really nice. For the whole thing, I would bet there were about 300 competitors.”

Deborah would be the first to tell you that rodeo isn't popular in Indiana, but she hopes to change that.

“Rodeo is huge in Louisiana,” she said. “I think it's starting to get bigger up here. That was my thing – I was just trying to get kids to know that it's also a sport where you don't have to have an animal. And I think if a kid is not one that is into sports like running and what not, rodeo is more of a sport against yourself.

“I think the roping would appeal to a lot of little boys. I think if kids just watched it more it would help. You also aren't playing against someone, you're just trying to better yourselves really.”

As far as practicing goes, Hunter lives on 13 acres of land where his family raises goats. They also have horses, pigs and even alpacas in the past. Hunter has his own horse named Rusty, who's off getting trained for the rodeo season (barrels).

“Yeah, we have five pigs... and they're nasty,” explained Hunter. “It like always rains at our house, so the pigs are always running in the mud.”

Hunter's next step will be the Indiana Junior Rodeo Association in Lebanon beginning April 28.

“He'll get to go to that to do the dummy goat tying and the dummy calf roping,” explained Deborah. “He won't have Rusty back yet, so we can't do the barrels just yet. It's really just kind of getting practice in. Then, the Southern Indiana Junior Rodeo Association in Salem begins in May, and he'll do all seven events for that – he's trying to make the top seven in five of his events to go to Nationals in Oklahoma. It's what he's striving for.”

Although young, Hunter has already accomplished a lot in the rodeo world and has no fear in doing so. Next up for him will be calf riding, including dismounting from his loyal horse Rusty and tying down a goat. He has no fear, though, and has seen firsthand how smart horses can be.

“Rusty is 18 and a free horse – he's a really good horse, and he doesn't have any bad habits,” said Hunter. “He gets bored, though. One time he lifted the door off of it's hinges and got out.”

Hunter will be hoping to compete at Nationals in July. He will also be looking for a sponsor. 

“The Southern Indiana rodeo you have to have a $300 sponsor, and the Indiana Junior Rodeo you have to have at least a $250 sponsor – you can have more that's just the minimum,” said Deborah. “Each of the competitors have to have their own sponsor.”

As Hunter hopes to compete at Nationals, his mom Deborah wanted to bring attention to the sport.

“I just wanted to get this story out there. Maybe someone wants to get involved with rodeo but just doesn't really know how,” she said. “It took me awhile to find the places and just getting in touch with people to try to get info on where to go and everything.”

Katrina Branson is Sports writer for The Shelbyville News. Follow Katrina on Twitter @k_b527.