By Laurelle Walsh
Two young horse lovers are Methow Valley Rodeo’s royalty for 2015: Queen Makhala Fox and Princess Mihayla Phillips. Queen Makhala and Princess Mihayla look forward to riding in the grand entry, competing in the barrel races and greeting the public at both the Memorial Day and Labor Day rodeos.
“I ride every day,” said Fox, who will be riding her quarter horses Beau Lily and Botty on Saturday and Sunday (May 23-24). “If I don’t ride I feel like I’ve let my horses down. I have a super strong bond with them,” she said.
Fox, 19, is a 2014 graduate of State Street High School in Sedro-Woolley. She and her mother, Karen Fox, and younger brother, Kadden Fox, live in the Skagit Valley town of Concrete and regularly come across the mountains to the Methow Valley to stay at their second home in Carlton, Fox said.
Rodeo runs in the Fox family; Karen Fox competed in barrel racing and served as Sedro-Woolley Rodeo princess in 1991. “My mom rode when she was pregnant with me,” said the younger Fox, who figures she’s been rodeoing since she could walk.
This will be Fox’s second time as rodeo royalty, having served as Darrington Rodeo princess in 2011.
Fox competed in barrel racing at the Methow Valley Rodeo in 2013 and 2014. She plans on riding Botty in the event this year. “If I didn’t have my horses I don’t know what I’d do,” she said. “They keep me out of trouble.”
When Fox isn’t riding, she works as a flagger for Atlas Land Clearing on roads around Skagit County.
Phillips, 16, will be participating in her first rodeos this year. She’s a 16-year-old rising junior at Liberty Bell High School, and lives in Twisp with her family: mother Jill Phillips, father Russ Phillips and sister Kaile Phillips.
Phillips said she’s been practicing barrel racing in preparation for the Memorial Day rodeo, and will be riding Dr. Dan DeWeert’s horse, Whitey. “He’s a really good horse,” she said.
“I’ve liked horses since I was really young,” said Phillips, who started taking riding lessons around age 7 in Port Townsend. She works at Bear Creek Equestrian Center near Winthrop, where she exercises horses and gives riding lessons to Winthrop Marshal Rikki Schwab. “It’s a lot of fun,” she said.
Both Phillips and Fox say they’re looking forward to helping the kids in the mutton busting and stick horse races at this weekend’s rodeo. “I love watching the little kids,” Fox said. “They really make the rodeo for me.”