For the week of July 1 thru July 7, 1998  

Reigning in rodeo crowns

These Blaine County belles of the bulls keep it in the family

Express Staff Writer

In some Sun Valley circles, a rodeo queen title and all its fringed and sequined trappings might seem a little archaic and, well, dusty.

But locals, in this place where more wear spandex than spurs and think of fleece as the flashy, element-shielding fabric of their pullover rather than the wool on a sheep, may have something to learn from Bellevue’s Rushton sisters.

For Tara and Cassi, reaching for a rodeo royalty title is a matter of pride, hard work and sweet reward.

And, though neither girl is even old enough to drive a car, both have already arrived at much success in the rodeo arena.

Tara just grabbed the Rodeo Princess Queen title in the Dodge National Circuit Finals.

"It just felt like everything went right," she said proudly of the horsemanship, interview, speech and modeling contests on which she was judged.

Tara is remarkably poised for a 13-year-old, yet said she is shy and used to face some major competition jitters.

The riding part comes easily for her, though she still spends enough time in the saddle every day to exercise four horses.

"Tara just has a natural ability to become part of the horse," her mother Barbara Rushton said.

She and Pretty Girl, her butterscotch-coated competition horse, are good friends, Tara said.

They’ve been chasing queen titles together since Tara was eight, after she saw another local girl, Lawend Thornton, crowned in the Blaine County rodeo.

"I wanted to be like her," Tara said. "I wanted to be there one day."

Now, in Tara’s shadow, eight-year-old Cassi has followed suit and nabbed her own title of Blaine County Junior Princess last summer.

Cassi does shine in her own right, with her strengths falling in places different than her sister’s.

Barbara Rushton said Cassi’s a born performer but that the bubbly 10-year-old lacks Tara’s bravado with horses and still gets a little spooked.

Being a rodeo queen isn’t all about glittering shirts, the near-mandatory Wranglers and perfecting the smoothest wave.

Both girls spend long hours honing their rodeo knowledge.

A rodeo queen is considered the emissary of her field and judges expect contestants to have working knowledge of the entire history of rodeo competitions--meaning everything since the 1936 birth of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association.

"Success comes with experience and knowledge," Tara said, stoically. "You need to know your stuff."

Both girls have learned volumes about the ins and outs of being a rodeo queen from Hailey’s Selby Board.

Selby, 21, is this year’s Dodge Queen, a victor in the highest age group, and she stands as something of a mentor for Tara and Cassi.

Dodge will sponsor Selby’s try for the Miss Rodeo Idaho title in July.

"If I win or lose, it’ll help me wherever I go," Selby said. Of her roughly 11 years of rodeo competition, Selby added, "You only get out of it what you put into it."

Watch for Tara, Cassi and Selby to showcase their rodeo royalty waves in the arena this weekend at the Hailey Rodeo Arena.


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