Little Britches ride into Yampa Valley range

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Last year around this time, Tia Brannan had attended nearly 16 rodeos on her quest to become the overall World Champion cowgirl in the Little Britches rodeo program. It was a quest that took her to competitions as far away as the Badlands in South Dakota.

This year, though, it's a different story.

The Moffat County Little Britches rodeo, to be held Friday and Saturday at the Moffat County Fairgrounds, will be only one of a handful of competitions that Brannan has participated in this year. The rodeo will serve as a leg up in competition for the World Champion, who was in the junior division when she was crowned champ, but has since aged into the senior division.

"It's still rodeo, so it's basically the same," the 14-year-old Brannan said. "At the same time, moving up into the senior division means that I've been competing in different events than I've been used to, and the competition is more experienced."

The Moffat County stop on the Little Britches rodeo circuit has been an extremely popular one in the past, drawing as many as 300 cowboys and cowgirls in past years.

This year's rodeo doesn't look to drew numbers as large as 300. A rather average turnout is expected, with 100 to 150 rodeoers coming into Craig to participate.

Though the numbers will be closer to an average Little Britches turnout, that doesn't mean the level of competition will drop at this year's event, especially after considering that Brannan is one in a number of World Champions from the Moffat County program.

"I don't know exactly how many World Champions the program has produced, but it's been plenty," said Diane Brannan, Tia's mother and President of the Moffat County Chapter of Little Britches. "The rodeo should also bring in stiff competition from three states, and maybe even from as far away as South Dakota."

The Craig rodeo serves as another stop on the Little Britches circuit. Participant sar elligible for national qualification after competing in five of the circuits rodeos.

Instead of relying on an accumulation of points from every rodeo, the Little Britches program averages a participants top five rodeo finishes. This system prevents a cowboy or cowgirl from becoming a national qualifier by just attending the most rodeos, while keeping the competition on an even keel for those who are unable to travel to a large number of competitions.

The Little Britches rodeo program is open to children ages 8 to 18, and is divided into two divisions. The junior division is made up of children 8 to 13, and the senior division is for the 14 to 18-year-old participants.

The program incorporates every event that a regular rodeo has, though in the junior division, many of the hazardous events are replaced with modified versions.

In many cases, it's a goat that is roped instead of a steer, and team roping is replaced with dally ribbon.

The change in some events, the level of competition and the reduced amount of traveling Brannan has done this year has put a World Championship repeat on hold, but it hasn't done the same for her aspirations.

"I'm going to try to repeat, though I don't know if it will be this year," she said. "We made a lot of rodeos last year and put in a lot of practice. This year has been a little more relaxed, and I haven't made as many competitions."

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