For almost as long as 13-year-old Isaiah Ethington can remember, animals have been a part of his life. Horses have been some of his best friends, and cattle have become as familiar as the back of his hand.
Therefore, it was not surprising to those who know him when Ethington traveled to Prescott for the Arizona Junior High State Finals Rodeo on May 4-5 and cracked the Top 3 in his two events.
The teen’s top finish came with a second-place “shoot-dogging” performance, which is similar to steer wrestling in that it requires cowboys to wrestle a steer to the ground as quickly as possible. Unlike steer wrestling, however, “shoot dogging,” which occurs at the middle school level, does not require cowboys to begin on horseback, but rather, allows cowboys to begin on foot and chase down their steer.
“I want to (steer wrestle) in high school next year,” Ethington said. “I competed in ‘shoot-dogging’ this year to gain experience.”
Ethington also finished third in the tie-down calf roping event at the Middle School State Finals, which qualified him for the National Junior High Finals Rodeo for the second straight year.
A longtime roper with a knack for tying quick knots, Ethington said that the adrenaline rush that he gets from roping and securing a steer keeps him coming back to rodeos all over the Southwest.
“You can get some pretty big calves down there on the end of the rope, and you and your horse have to be working together,” Ethington said. “Working with your horse is probably the biggest challenge in (tie-down calf roping).”
According to Ethington, this year’s Junior High National Finals Rodeo will take place in Huron, South Dakota, on June 24-30. The Arriola cowboy competes in roughly one rodeo per month September through May and has competed in about 17 rodeos in the past year.
Although still a year removed from high school, Ethington is looking forward to competing at the high school level and said that he would eventually like to become a professional rodeo cowboy.
“I just hope that I can do real good and finish this year out strong,” Ethington said. “I hope that I go pro one day.”
Currently being home-schooled by his grandmother, Andrea Ethington, Elijah Ethington balances his rodeo obligations with a variety of schoolwork and works at the Cortez Livestock Auction in summer.
Often tasked with penning cattle, horses, and other livestock, Ethington looks right at home at the Cortez Livestock Auction and often arrives for work on horseback.
“I enjoy doing anything involving horses,” he said. “And I really enjoy rodeo.”
Local rodeo fans can expect to see Ethington near the top of the standings at Four Corners area rodeos in the years to come.