By Ashley Lodato
Methow Valley rodeo royalty Mihayla Phillips and Jadyn Mitchell face many challenges while performing their duties. At events they’re in tight staging areas with a lot of other girls and horses; at parades they’re managing horses around crowds and sudden loud sounds, like sirens and gunfire. But the most difficult thing about being a member of rodeo royalty?
“Trying to pin on my sash,” says Princess Jadyn. “Mihayla has to do it for me.”
Queen Mihayla’s answer is similarly unexpected: “Getting my hair ready.” She adds, “Luckily Jadyn’s mom owns a hair salon and can help us.”
The other things that might scare many of the rest of us—such as barrel racing, for example—these rodeo girls take in stride. Mihayla, who is a senior at Liberty Bell, started riding when she was 7 years old and Jadyn, a Liberty Bell seventh grader, has been riding “ever since I could hold onto the horn.” These are girls who are as comfortable in the saddle as they seem to be in their roles as this year’s rodeo royalty.
Mihayla was a rodeo princess in 2015, so she knew what she was getting into when she auditioned. “I wanted to do it again because I missed being a part of the rodeo and the rodeo community,” she says, adding, “I forgot how much fun it is.”
The fun comes from traveling around the region to different rodeos and parades, representing the Methow Valley Rodeo. The royalty give talks about the local rodeo and invite people to come watch it. They also hand out photos and sign autographs, mostly for starry-eyed little girls who dream about sitting in those same saddles one day.
That was Jadyn’s dream when she was young. “I was born and raised here,” she says, “and ever since I was little I wanted to try out to be rodeo royalty.”
The audition is a thorough one, consisting of a riding test, where judges ask the riders to put their horses through certain paces, a speaking component, and an interview. “It’s a good experience to go through it,” says Mihayla, and Jadyn—who at 12 years old is one of the youngest rodeo princesses in the rodeo’s 45-year history—agrees.
Some of the rodeo royalty’s responsibilities have proven easier than anticipated. Prior to her first experience with a grand entry (when mounted riders carrying flags enter the arena at a gallop), Jadyn worried that lining up and getting into the proper position would be difficult; she was relieved to be able to manage it quite smoothly.
Other duties have carried their own challenges, such as the speeches the rodeo royalty gave to the guests on the Ride to Rendezvous two weeks ago. Remember the dark, stormy night with thunder, lightning, and hail? That was when the rodeo royalty were out at the Ride to Rendezvous camp giving their talks.
Both girls noted how enjoyable it is to be a part of the rodeo community. “It’s a very supportive group of people,” says Mihayla. “Everyone just cheers each other on.”
Unlike ‘49er Days royalty, who wear period dresses with petticoats and hoop skirts, rodeo royalty dress for riding: boots, black Wrangler jeans, sparkly shirts. “Lots of sparkles,” emphasizes Mihayla. “And big, curled hair,” adds Jadyn.
At the rodeo, Queen Mihayla will be riding her mare Foxy, whom she has only been riding for 2 months. Princess Jadyn will be on Sandy, who is just a few months older than Jadyn herself. “I’ve done everything with her for the last 4 years,” says Jadyn, a nod to the close relationship she has formed with her horse.
Both girls will be barrel racing at the rodeo. It’s a newer event for Mihayla, but Jadyn has been doing it since she was 5 years old. They’ll also compete in pole bending, a timed agility event.
Next year, Mihayla will be attending community college and Jadyn will proceed to eighth grade. But for now, the rodeo royalty are focused on their mission of representing one of the Methow Valley’s most iconic events.