Harper loves crowds and noise, and she’s headed to the right place next month.
Las Vegas is the next stop for Harper, a horse that Tomah High School freshman Cheyenne Check will ride at the Junior National Finals Rodeo Dec. 12-16.
The rodeo will be held on the second floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center, and Check says her horse performs best on a short, indoor track with a loud, receptive crowd.
“Harper prefers the indoors − it’s less work,” Check said. “The noise gets her pumped up.”
Check, daughter of Craig and Beth Check of Tomah, is a having a productive season with Harper, an eight-year old purchased by the family five years ago. She qualified for the national tournament by finishing second out of 77 contestants in barrel racing at a regional rodeo in Topeka, Kansas. Only the top five punched tickets to Las Vegas.
Check said she rides a horse that has a “personality of her own” and gallops aggressively toward the barrels in a cloverleaf pattern. While it increases the chances of tipping a barrel and incurring a five-second penalty, it also results in a faster run.
Barrels is Check’s only event in Las Vegas, and she admits there will be pressure on her first two runs. Fifty competitors qualified for nationals, and only the top 20 will advance to the second and final round. Her mother, a member of a state champion Tomah High School rodeo team nearly three decades ago, said there will be no margin for error in Las Vegas.
“You only get two runs to make it to the short-go, and there are no points to carry over,” Beth Check said.
The junior rodeo is held in conjunction with the National Rodeo Finals Dec. 7-16.
The event attracts the top rodeo athletes in the world, and Cheyenne Check looks forward to meeting “the best of the best.” She will be signing autographs alongside her adult counterparts, and she views them as role models.
“They’re so polite, and they go out of their way for the fans,” she said.
Check’s trip to Las Vegas won’t interfere with her first season as a high school rodeo performer. The Wisconsin High School Rodeo has already held four regional events for the 2017-18 season, and Check is third in pole bending, fourth in breakaway roping, fifth in goat tying and seventh in barrels. There are four more regional rodeos next spring, including one in Tomah before the state finals in Richland Center in June.
It’s long season, but Check says Harper is ready for the challenge.
“I keep her in good shape so she’ll run hard,” she said. “She knows when it’s her time to run. She gives me her all every time.”