Among the barrel racers competing in last weekend's Ute Mountain Roundup rodeo, many were longtime professionals and a few were superstars.
In no way intimidated by the stiff competition however, Mancos resident Marie Hoch took to the arena for what turned out to be a solid professional debut.
Competing on June 5, Hoch completed the course in 18.17 seconds. Although Hoch's time was not fast enough to place, the ride represented a respectable showing.
"My performance wasn't too bad," said Hoch. "(My horse) tripped on the third (barrel), but I'm very excited."
In light of her path to the Ute Mountain Roundup, Hoch's excitement was more than justified.
Born to parents from the Midwest, Hoch, did not grow up in a household familiar with rodeo. As a result, the longtime Mancos resident had to learn as she went along.
"I didn't start riding horses until I was 8 years old," said Hoch. "We didn't really know a lot. We just had to learn for ourselves."
Thanks to her love of rodeo, however, Hoch learned quickly. A fan of steer wrestling growing up, Hoch eventually took up barrel racing.
After several years of practice, Hoch decided to turn pro earlier this year and entered the Ute Mountain Roundup for the first time.
Clearly excited to be competing in near her hometown, Hoch reflected on what turned out to be a special experience.
"This was my first pro rodeo and it was kind of nice to do it in my home town," said Hoch. "I like seeing friends and family. I like getting together with everyone and having a good time."
Encouraged by her professional debut, Hoch will compete in professional rodeos in Prescott and Window Rock later this year.
Before those events, however, Hoch plans to enjoy the Mancos area, which she calls home.
"I like being in the mountains," said Hoch. "Mancos has really nice people. It's a good community."
No doubt, that community will eagerly embrace its newest rodeo star.