By Tonya Garner: Freedom Newspapers
From the tip of her white, felt cowboy hat to the toes of her navy blue boots, Ashlee Stallings personifies rodeo royalty.
On her way to the title of Miss Rodeo New Mexico, the Clovis native braved chilly wind and muddy conditions to compete in the horsemanship portion of the pageant June 2 at the Curry County Mounted Patrol Arena.
Participants were judged on such categories as poise, beauty, personality and rodeo knowledge during the week-long event.
Kathy Stallings, Ashlee’s mother, said her daughter thrives on the pageant atmosphere because she loves the clothes, fashion and excitement of the events.
“She (Ashlee) always wears high heels,” Kathy Stallings said. “She only takes them off to put her boots on to ride horses.”
Ashlee Stallings considers pink to be signature color and even designs the vests and jackets she wears in the pageants, Kathy Stallings said.
Although fashion is her passion and she appears ultra-feminine, Ashlee Stallings described herself as an outdoor loving girl who enjoys hunting and fishing.
“It’s true,” Kathy Stallings said. “I have a picture of Ashlee dressed in camouflage standing over a deer she shot.”
Ashlee Stallings said as queen she would like to pass her love of rodeo and horses down to the younger generation.
“I really love rodeo, and I think I would be a good role model to young girls,” aid Ashlee Stallings, pristinely dressed in full western garb consisting of an eye-catching orange shirt adorned with sparkling rhinestones, figure hugging dark blue Wrangler jeans, large belt buckle and matching diamond encrusted earrings and hair accessory.
Kathy Stallings said her daughter spends many hours volunteering with a therapeutic horse riding program for handicapped children and helping young children overcome their fear of horses with education and riding lessons.
The horsemanship competition required Stallings to maneuver a specific course on horseback while being scrutinized by three judges. To ensure a fair contest and make it comparable to the Miss Rodeo America Pageant, the women drew between one of three horses brought in specifically for the event.
Following a quick stirrup adjustment to accommodate her petite frame, the 21-year-old Eastern New Mexico entered the arena astride a gray-and-white gelding and began putting the animal through the required figure-eight pattern. Despite the large gelding’s temperamental snorts and head shakes, Stallings quickly gained control of the horse while confidently leading him through a series of trots and lopes before coming to a stop and dismounting in front of the judges.
According to Stallings, the judges questioned her on how she felt about her performance.
“I felt like it was a little jerky,” She said, “but it was okay.”
As the winner of the pageant, Stallings is expected to be an ambassador for rodeo and required to compete in the Miss Rodeo America pageant.
Presenting the sport will come naturally to Stallings, whose life centers around horses and rodeo. She rides cutting horses and competes in barrel racing and break-away roping events as a member of the rodeo team.
She is no stranger to pageants, having triumphed over 15 other young women to be crowned New Mexico State Fair Queen in 2005. Her responsibilities from that pageant included promoting the event throughout the state at parades, rodeos and county fairs.
Kathy Stallings said she really can’t remember at time when her daughter wasn’t on a horse.
“She (Ashlee) started showing horses when she was four,” Kathy Stallings said. “She’s been thrown and stepped on but it hasn’t stopped her.”