Lauren Spalding: Rodeo Mom

Story By: Lauren Spalding

Location: Maui, HI

My life has always revolved around the ocean. I’ve made a career as an ocean paddler and even competed in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece. While our kids have grown up, we’ve always brought them along for the ride. Whether it's canoe paddling, or diving, or surfing, or racing, they've always been a part of it, hanging out at the beach or on an escort boat while I’m training. My daughter Lea (now 15) even celebrated a few birthdays at canoe regattas.


Lea had never been into the ocean sports herself though. She’s done gymnastics and she danced ballet but when she got to be about 11 or 12 years old, she told me one day, "I want to rodeo." And I was like, "What does that mean?" I had no idea what I was getting into. How does one… “rodeo”? I was clueless but mostly I thought, “This could be cool, bring it on!"


I quickly learned that getting into rodeo is not like going to a gym and signing up. You’ve got to know somebody, you've got to borrow a horse, you’ve got to get the right attire. And the time commitment isn’t like a two-hour soccer game. We're basically camping out for the day, every rodeo. So, as a parent, it's making sure I've got everything we need – including enough water for the horse. And we love to make a thing of it, so we set up chairs, blankets, snack tables, water coolers on the tailgate – all the kids know they can come hang out at our spot.


As for my training, if I need to get a workout in, I'll get Lea all set, and I'll go running then change back into rodeo attire, which we knew nothing about. We learned about Cowgirl Tuff Jeans and boots. She tears through boots. And just like how her friends lent us clothes, now we hand off clothes as she grows out of them.


“It’s funny that Lea would go the opposite direction of ocean sports. But here we are with a truck, trailer, and horse. We’re a rodeo family now."


And just like with other things, sometimes borrowing a horse leads to buying. We got Mighty Man about two years ago. Buying a horse is a way bigger deal than buying say, a soccer ball. With horse ownership, there's so much responsibility that comes along with it, and stress; I’ll be up at night praying for the horse instead of my own children sometimes! I’m joking, but I really do pray for the horse’s health and well-being. Then I had to learn to drive the horse trailer. I've pulled trailers before, but only boat trailers. A boat is a big deal to pull, but it's not a living animal. I still get a little bit of butterflies when I'm pulling out with the trailer because…it’s a horse! But hey, I’m committed. And that’s the most important thing in our family – whether it’s canoe racing or barrel racing, the only thing that matters to us is giving it 110%. And rodeo is teaching Lea that.


Watching her progress through her (so far) short rodeo career has been, I’ll admit stressful, but amazing too. I'm so proud of her for her success, but I think the failures are even more valuable. Having a bad run is the greatest teacher because while you’ve got to learn to be a good winner, you’ve got to learn to lose better. Through my career I’ve learned to not take myself too seriously and to leave it on the water. She is learning to leave it in the arena.


I think with all my kids, I kind of sit back and see what they're going to gravitate towards. But it is funny to me that she would go the complete opposite direction of the sports she was raised around. And here we are, about three and a half years into rodeoing, with a truck, trailer, horse, you name it. It’s all we do. We’re a rodeo family now.


Rodeo is a huge commitment for both the parent and the child, but here on Maui, it comes with an awesome group of people who are looking out for everyone else’s kids and horses and rooting for each other. It’s one big rodeo ohana. It really is an awesome community…but I feel like maybe that’s just the rodeo lifestyle.





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