BY JOHN MURPHY
Explaining you’re a rodeo star who excels at cutting or goat tying isn’t like saying you’re an all-league shortstop or wide receiver. But Cherry Valley teen-ager Gracie-Beth Sutton is used to it.
“I have to explain my events every day,” Sutton said by phone from Colorado. “People say, ‘What is goat tying?’ And cutting is one they never quite understand.”
The subject is relevant because Sutton, 16, won the California High School Rodeo Association cutting championship in June in Bishop.
She is headed to the 73rd annual National High School Finals Rodeo in Lincoln, Neb. July 18-24.
The event bills itself as the world’s largest rodeo. There are 1,650 contestants from 44 states, five Canadian provinces, as well as competitors from Australia, Mexico, and New Zealand.
Cutting is a competition in which a rider and horse work together before a judge or panel of judges to show the horse’s athleticism and ability to handle cattle.
Each horse/rider tandem is allotted a 2.5-minute set.
Rodeo is not for every teen-age girl, but Gracie-Beth’s mother, Amanda Sutton, wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I love it,” Amanda said. “I love everything about rodeo. The people involved put God first and are very patriotic. You can’t find better people.”
“To know Gracie-Beth is to love her,” she said. “She’s loyal and hard-working. She’s goal-motivated and a good example for the younger kids. She keeps her horses first and that’s worked for her so far.”
The Suttons reside on their S-5 (Sutton 5) Ranch in Cherry Valley where the area’s most celebrated cowgirl has nine horses.
Included are her main cutting horse Patrick and backup Milly.
Those two horses are with her now as she travels across the country to the national finals.
Sutton started competing when she was only 7.
By 12 she had earned the titles of Miss San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Rodeo Queen and Banning Stagecoach Junior All-Around Girl.
“At first she didn’t like it,” Amanda said. “We used to bribe her with ice cream to go faster than a walk on her pony. Now, everything she does is fast.”
A junior-to-be at online Springs Charter Schools, Sutton was inspired by her older brother Wyatt who was a rodeo cowboy. Wyatt competed with his younger sister and pushed her.
Attending online school allows the cowgirl to take care of her horses every day.
It also gives her the freedom to crisscross the country for competitions, which she has done numerous times.
She hopes at the end of her run there will be a national cutting title, perhaps some prize money and a college rodeo scholarship in it for her.
“I love the friendships you make and there are a lot of good career opportunities,” Sutton said. “It would be great to compete on a college rodeo team after high school.”