SPRINGFIELD — In many ways, Charley Beheler is your typical six-year-old. She attends kindergarten, loves arts and crafts and enjoys being outside.
She also happens to be one of the best rodeo riders in Knox County.
Beheler recently took part in the Championship 4-State Youth Rodeo Classic in Springfield. She came away as Junior Rodeo Queen.
“We are so proud of her,” said Charley’s mom Jamie. “She loves to compete. More importantly, she just loves to be there.”
The four-state championship classic invites competitors from Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia and Kentucky. The circuit’s most recent event took place Jan. 12. Charley competed against several competitors her age and older.
In order to win the Rodeo Queen title, Charley had to perform a complicated routine on her horse. She ran in with a bag of cans, then had to drag a crate, go over some jumps and carry an American flag around the arena. She performed the entire routine to the classic rock and roll hit “Yakety Yak.”
“We dressed her up 50s style, with a leather coat and a bandana around her neck,” said Jamie. “Her pony had a really cool bandana over his ears.”
When she was asked later why she wanted to be 2013 Rodeo Queen, Charley’s response to the crowd was, “It would be something special to me.”
To coin a phrase, this wasn’t her first rodeo. Charley has been riding since she was 2. Her parents own a farm in Fredericktown where Charley can ride and spend time with horses.
“She was riding from the time she was able to sit up by herself,” said Jamie. “She would ride the horses up from the field with me leading them. She was always outside with me, doing chores and being around the horses.”
Charley begin competing two years ago, when her parents realized how comfortable she was on a horse.
“We went and watched their first weekend,” said Jamie. “We signed her up right away.”
Since then, Charley joined the Ohio Junior Rodeo Association, where she’s a regular on the Grades K-2 circuit. The OJRA holds its in-season rodeos at Champaign County Fairgrounds in Urbana.
The standard rodeo for competitors of younger ages consists of barrel racing, pole bending, dummy roping and mutton busting. The mutton busting is arguably the biggest crowd-pleaser, though it’s also the hardest to master.
“When Charley first went up to do mutton busting, all the other kids were crying. She’s like, ‘Mom, why are they all crying?’” said Jamie. “Well, they know what’s coming. So, on the second day, she’s up there crying with the rest of them.
“After that, she didn’t want to ride the sheep until the last rodeo of the year, so she did and she loved it.”
Charley participates in some advanced events for her age. She has already tried her hand at mounted goat tying, which involves dismounting, knocking a goat down and tying its legs.
“She isn’t big enough yet to flip the goat over, but she’s trying,” said Jamie.
She’ll get good enough soon. The Behelers plan to get some sheep and goats for their farm in the spring. Charley will get plenty of time to practice her new favorite events before the 2013 OJRA season begins in May.
While her classmates in Fredericktown are on the swings, climbing jungle gyms or playing football, Charley can be seen on her horse. Jamie said her daughter loves to compete but, more importantly, just loves to be there.
“She loves to cheer everyone else on,” said Jamie. “She has a good time with the people.”
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