Born to rope and ride

Rodeo is a way of life for high school junior Tia Brannan

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Like many girls, Tia Brannan likes talking on the phone, listening to music, reading, and goat tying.

Well, maybe many girls don't like goat tying. But then neither did Brannan when she first started competing in all-around rodeo competitions.

Of the six events included in an all-around competition, Brannan said goat tying was her weakest event. But as she worked to improve her skill, she grew passionate about the unique sport.

She's grown good at it, too. As of May 18, she was ranked sixth in the state for goat tying by the Colorado State High School Rodeo Association. Goat tying has also become her favorite sport.

"In other events it's mostly about your horse, but there are so many aspects to goat tying," Brannan said.

For a demonstration last week, Brannan staked a goat out in her family's arena. She rode at the goat on her horse, armed with three feet of stiff rope, one end in her back belt loop and the other end in her mouth. Getting off the horse is challenging because the horse can be moving 25 miles per hour. Timing is essential.

She hit the ground running, and the goat was running from side to side, as far as the rope allowed. But the goat hadn't even dodged twice when Brannan got a hold of it.

She flipped the goat on its back and pulled three legs together. Loop, loop -- in seconds flat she tied a knot and was standing up while the goat lay on the ground with three legs tied and a fourth sticking off to the side.

But perhaps all this should come naturally to Brannan, having grown up on a ranch.

The arena she practices in was built by her father, Gary Brannan, as was the hybrid RV/horse trailer they take to rodeos on the weekends.

"The day I was born, they put me in my sister's saddle," Tia said.

Seventeen years later, she has won 13 saddles at rodeo competitions, as well as the 2000 Little Britches Rodeo All-Around World Championship, where she competed against people from 37 different states.

Having grown up in a ranching environment, Tia always wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to learn as much as she could about horses and riding.

A junior at Moffat County High School, she's looking ahead to her college career, considering taking advantage of smaller classes at a quality junior college for her first two years of higher education, before heading to a larger university to complete her bachelor's degree. She's looking at Laramie County Community College, where she could rodeo while she studies.

After completing her basic coursework, she'd like to transfer to Colorado State University or the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Both have renowned rodeo programs, but academics are just as important as rodeo, if not more important, as far as Brannan is concerned.

She'd like to be a teacher or a real estate agent. She likes the latter because there's money in it, but she likes the former because education is so important to her. If she taught, she'd like to teach an intermediate grade such as sixth grade, because children that age are interested in school and learning. It also would give her the opportunity to prepare students for the grades ahead of them, giving her the opportunity to infuse in them a love of learning.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or rgebhart@craigdailypress.com

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