A little cowgirl will set the hearts of Hamel Rodeo fans racing.
Lana Houck, a six year old from North Branch, Minn., will barrel race with the adults at the Hamel Rodeo July 11.
The precocious little blond has been riding by herself since she was three years old, and began barrel racing at the same age.
Her parents, Pete and Jill, own Houck Horse Company, where they buy, sell and train horses from across the country. Pete is a former bull rider and Jill is a barrel racer.
So it was only natural that Lana would ride horses. But she’s also extremely talented and a natural rider, her dad says.
And she loves to go fast. If a person could choose a one-line description for Lana, her dad says, it would be “fast isn’t fast enough.” She’s fallen off her ponies, but she just gets right back on.
Lana is in love with horses. “She’s absolutely horse crazy,” her dad said. “I’ll ask, Lana, do you want to play video games in the house this morning, or go out and ride?’ When it’s ten degrees below zero, and she’d rather go out and ride. That’s her nature.”
Lana will barrel race (rodeo’s version of a modified horse race, around three 55 gallon barrels set in a cloverleaf pattern) with the novice barrel racers at Corcoran Lions Park in Hamel, but it won’t be her first rodeo.
She is the 2013 Minnesota Barrel Racers Association Peewee champion, and finished in tenth place in the barrel racing at the Western Saddle Club Association, against other girls in her age division. She’s ridden horses through sale rings at some of the biggest horse auctions in the nation, and she’s not shy. “She’s an absolute showboat,” Pete said. “She isn’t bashful in front of people. She absolutely loves everything about it.”
Lana’s talent comes, in part, from her mom, Jill, an accomplished barrel racer at the junior, high school, amateur and professional levels. A year ago, Jill was diagnosed with primary lateral sclerosis, a neurological condition that has slowed her barrel racing. She still continues to compete alongside her daughter.
“She’s a real natural at it,” Jill said, of her daughter. “I don’t think she understands how much natural ability she has.”
Lana spends hours with her horses, brushing them and picking up their hooves. During the school year, she spent afternoons in kindergarten and mornings outside. “Every morning, when she gets up, whether it’s 110 degrees out or ten below, she wants to go outside and ride,” Pete says.
“She’s having fun. That’s all that matters,” Jill says.
Lana will be the last barrel racer on July 11 at the Hamel Rodeo, which also has performances July 10, 12 and 13. For more information on the rodeo, visit the website at HamelRodeo.org or call 763-478-6611.