Mesilla Elementary School Student Qualifies to Compete in Rodeo at the YETI Junior World Finals

When it comes to barrel racing, one athlete from Mesilla Elementary proves that hard work and determination is all you need to compete at the next level. Morgan Parra is only eleven years old, but she is already shaking things up in the world of rodeo. In February, Morgan was featured in the NHSRA (National High School Rodeo Association) Times magazine as the “Professional’s Choice Student-Athlete of the Month” for barrel racing. Morgan was one of the youngest student athletes to receive this recognition for the February edition of NHSRA Times.  

The love for horses and rodeo has been a staple in Morgan’s family for many generations. Born and raised in Las Cruces, her love for horses came from riding with her father at an early age. Morgan’s father grew up team roping in rodeos. When Morgan was a child, her passion for riding grew stronger.  

“My dad got me into riding horses and has always wanted me to compete in rodeos with him,” said Morgan. “I’ve been riding horses since before I could walk. My dad would ride with me, I always loved it.”   

Each day, Morgan dedicates time for riding, but growing up her parents instilled the importance of putting education first. Morgan said her teachers motivate her daily to work hard in the classroom. Her parents and friend Peyton Shelley encourage her to do her best in rodeo and offer support and guidance as mentors, allowing Morgan to improve her time in barrel racing. On a slow day, Morgan enjoys taking the opportunity to ride doubles with her younger sister Maddison, keeping the love for riding in the family.  

Morgan believes horses need good exercise and it takes time for them to get into shape to run and perform at a high level. She adds that it takes a lot of effort to feed, care, and train a horse for competition. For barrel racing, the rider takes off as fast as they can around three barrels in a cloverleaf pattern and out the alley again. The rider must be skilled to make tight turns around the barrel without knocking it over. If a barrel is knocked over, time is added to the rider’s final race time. 

During the pandemic, Morgan found how much riding helped her focus, allowing her to feel calm. She used riding as an escape during a time when social gatherings were limited. She found solace riding her horses, Zeus and Bucket. In turn, they helped Morgan reach new goals she set for herself.  

“I work hard every time I compete and work to become better than I was the last time,” Morgan said. “When I give my horses my best efforts, they give their best to me, too.”  

Earlier this year, Morgan set a goal to qualify for the YETI Junior World Finals in Las Vegas, Nevada. To help get her there, she babysits, does farm work, and takes time to help at her grandparents at their restaurant.  Morgan said she would continue to push herself because she knows that demonstrating drive and perseverance will help her achieve each goal she sets for herself.  

To qualify for Las Vegas, Morgan entered a qualifier race in Clovis NM, and the two fastest times from the top junior racers and top senior racers qualify. Morgan took second and third place in two separate events during the competition. Morgan’s performance in Clovis landed her a spot to compete in the barrel racing competition at the YETI Junior World Finals from Dec. 1-10.  

The YETI Junior World Finals will host more than 800 contestants within the Wrangler Rodeo Arena during the first 10 days in December 2023.