Since her arrival on the high school rodeo circuit three years ago, soon-to-be Dolores High School senior Dara Suckla has become known for her skill with ropes and her horse with a catchy name.
Now, thanks to her runner-up placing in the breakaway roping event at the New Mexico High School State Rodeo Finals in Gallup earlier this summer, Suckla is set to compete in the National High School Finals Rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyoming, July 14-20.
“I’ve been riding since I was 2 years old and I’ve been roping since my eighth grade year,” Suckla said. “My sister qualified for the (National High School Finals Rodeo) a few years ago and this is my first time qualifying. I’m really excited.”
While Suckla’s qualification for high school rodeo’s premiere event stands out as her most impressive accomplishment in the sport thus far, success in rodeo arenas throughout the western United States is nothing new for the lifelong Montezuma County resident, who competes in numerous rodeos every year.
Joined by family members and her trusty horse, “Mighty Mouse,” the breakaway roper has traveled to Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Nevada to compete in the sport that has taught her so much and given her lifelong friends.
“Rodeo teaches you a lot about respect, and (competitors) have a lot of responsibilities,” Suckla said. “I have to take care of my animals and I have to keep up with school. Because of rodeo, I’ve met people from all over the world and I’ve gotten to travel all over the country.”
Like all competitors in breakaway roping, Suckla is tasked with keeping her horse behind an imaginary barrier until a calf is released from a nearby shoot. Once a calf is released, competitors must chase the animal down and rope it as quickly as possible.
Any time under 2 seconds is considered excellent, and achieving such times is dependent on deft riding, precision with the rope, proper practice and preparation, and steely focus in the moments leading up to the event.
“Breakaway roping is very fast and you have to be on top of your game,” Suckla said. “You have to be able to ride a horse as well as rope in under 2 seconds. It is important to stay focused and rope sharp.”
Although Suckla generally garners the credit for her success, she emphasized that her standout results would not be possible without her 8-year-old horse Mighty Mouse.
Three years into their relationship that has included much training and consistent love, Suckla and the small gelding with the catchy name have developed an unbreakable bond that allows them to work as one.
I got (Mighty Mouse) my freshman year and he is an amazing horse,” Suckla said. “I love riding him and he’s so unique. He’s really little, but he has so much try. He is a sweetheart and he wouldn’t hurt a soul.”
While Suckla still has one year of high school to complete and her future plans have yet to be completely determined, she indicated she plans to attend college and continue her rodeo career, perhaps even professionally, in the years to come.
Before she can compete at the professional level, however, breakaway roping must be added to the professional rodeo slate. Suckla is hopeful that such an addition will occur sometime within the next five years.
“Breakaway roping is not currently an event in the National Finals Rodeo, but it is in the Women’s National Finals Rodeo,” Suckla said. “Hopefully in the next five years, (breakaway roping) will be implemented in the National Finals Rodeo and become a pro event. I would love to one day compete at the professional level.”
Before any appearances on her sport’s biggest stage, however, Suckla will focus on performing well at the National High School Finals Rodeo and enjoying the rest of her summer in the Montezuma County community that has supported her since she was born.
“The community does a lot for me,” Suckla said. “My family owns the Cortez Livestock Auction and I have a lot of support through that. I have a lot of people to help me and push me to do what I do. It helps that I have so much support where I live and (my community) helps me be the best that I can be.”