WINONA – Two local cowgirls earned their way into the Junior National Finals Rodeo’s KK Run for Vegas set for December 12 through 16 in Las Vegas, Nev.
Sisters Taylor Shurden, 10, and Reagan Shurden, 9, of Winona, daughters of Jim and Sheri Shurden, qualified to compete in the junior division of the national rodeo by competing in six of 11 qualifying shows around the United States. Based on ride times or points accrued throughout the show season, both girls qualified to compete in Vegas.
The girls will run on December 13 and 15 from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m., and if successful, the girls will compete in the finals. The competition will be televised on RFD television.
Reagan Shurden earned her way to Vegas by finishing in the top five barrel racers aged 11 years or younger based on winning times during the 11 qualifying races.
Taylor Shurden picked up a wild card spot from points collected by rides during qualifying races throughout the year.
According to mother Sheri Shurden, her daughters competed in six shows in Mississippi, Kansas, Texas, Arkansas, and Utah.
“There were 80 to 150 kids competing [each show],” Sheri Shurden said. “Around 55 to 60 kids [nationally] are going to Vegas.”
The Shurden sisters have been training in barrel racing since they were aged two and three.
“They started out in 4-H in Montgomery County,” Sheri Shurden said. “Charlotte Williams started them barrel racing. [Their] biggest influence was Jo Ellard from Winona.”
Sheri Shurden also credited Emme and Tyler Patterson, Susanna Hill, and Ashley and Quay Eaves for working with her girls over the years.
“They started doing local shows, and it kind of grew from there,” Sheri Shurden said. “[Seriously competing around the country] just started this year. Our goal was to go to Vegas back in January.”
For Taylor Shurden, going to Vegas in December will prepare her for her ultimate goal -- to compete for a world championship in the National Finals Rodeo in barrel racing.
She said she amped up competing this year because she thought it would be fun.
“And I get to go to Vegas,” Taylor said. “I want to be a professional barrel racer.”
Taylor said she rides at least three days a week at an arena located at the Shurden home.
“I try to get a little barrel work done,” Taylor said.
This rodeo season, Taylor has depended on three horses, Molly, Daisy, and Trick. Sheri Shurden said the season has been difficult due to the health of two of the horses. Daisy, Taylor’s main horse for competition, had surgery in May to repair a broken splint bone, and Trick suffered an allergic reaction.
However, Taylor pressed on, racking up enough points to earn a wild card spot for Vegas.
Reagan Shurden officially qualified for Vegas in June following a show in Texarkana, Texas. She finished fourth overall riding her horse, Grace.
Unlike her sister, Reagan Shurden does not have plans to become a professional barrel racer.
“This is fun right now,” Reagan said.
Sheri Shurden said Reagan’s goal was to get to the Junior National Finals Rodeo, this year, and return next year.
This past weekend, the girls competed in a show at the Montgomery County Coliseum. Reagan won the second division in Saturday’s contest.
“[Competing this year] has been fun for sure,” Sheri Shurden said. “We never really imagined we would make it the first year.”
As for the travel and time it takes to compete, Sheri Shurden said the time and energy was worth it.
“It is a family event, so we all can be together.”
Students at Winona Elementary School, the sisters pride themselves in taking care of their own horses, even cleaning the stalls. And each still finds time to pursue other endeavors in addition to barrel racing. Both girls enjoys showing lambs through Montgomery County 4-H as well as taking dance classes at Susan Allen School of Dance.
“We want to thank everyone who have helped Taylor and Reagan over the years,” Shurden said. “There have been a lot of people who have helped them.”