By Sharon Toth
Carlie Dilleshaw began learning how to ride a horse when she was 4 to 5 years old, but now, at 11 years of age, she is heading to Las Vegas to compete as a barrel racer with her Palomino, Nella, in a competition hosting the best youth riders in the country.
The Danbury youngster will be one of 840 contestants from 28 states and four Canadian provinces competing Dec. 1-5 at the Mike and Sherrylynn Johnson Vegas “Tuffest“ Jr. World Championship. The Johnsons are both nationally recognized rodeo competitors.
Their youth rodeo is a free event to attend and will be held each morning at 8:15 a.m. at The Expo and the World Market Center. It’s also the first weekend of the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nev.
Carlie will be competing in the 12 and under category with the contest divided by 10 and under, 15 and under and 19 and under age groups. She will be competing using the cloverleaf pattern in barrel racing.
“My favorite event in rodeo is the clovers,” said Carlie.
She didn’t have a horse when she began her training, but it didn’t take her long to get one.
“We were lucky enough to be friends with the (Brazoria County Fair) Rodeo Queen that year, Jolee Schaefer, and we borrowed her horse, and Jolee took her under her wing,” said Carlie’s mom, Brittany Dilleshaw.
At one point, Carlie looked at her Dad, Brandon Dilleshaw, and asked him when she could get a horse. It was only about six months before her parents bought Remi, a gray pony. Remi helped Carlie to develop her skills, and then she got another horse, Shorty, a bay quarter horse mare, at 8 years old.
“Shorty gave her the desire to compete,” said Mrs. Dilleshaw. Carlie & Shorty working together earned Carlie several awards in 2020 until Shorty suffered a career-ending injury in 2021.
When the Dilleshaws were looking for a replacement for Shorty, the Palomino mare, Nella, reminded Carlie of a dear friend. “She feels like Shorty,” she told her parents.
Carlie at this point was training with Kimberly Clayton, to whom her mother gives a lot of credit for helping Carlie to improve.
“That’s who really helped her to find her skills and with this quality of horse,” said Mrs. Dilleshaw, also recognizing Nella as a great fit for Carlie.
“Nella qualified her to run in Vegas,”said Mrs. Dilleshaw. Carlie’s parents entered her in the qualifier for the “Tuffest” Rodeo to offer their daughter a challenge and to see where she sat with the best in the country, her mom said. “She placed third in the event, and they take the top 3, so now we’re fundraising for a long trip to Vegas.”
Carlie said she likes rodeoing because “it is fun to be with all my friends doing what we love.” In this case, we hope she has a barrel of fun.