Piggott Teen Joins Ranks of H.S. Rodeo Circuit

Thursday, March 28, 2013
Team roper Ethan Murray with his horse Dusty. Murray and his partner, Trevor Dorris from Harviell, Mo., are now competing on the high school rodeo circuit.

For Piggott High School sophomore Ethan Murray a love of sports runs in the family, but for Ethan the stick and ball competitions enjoyed by other family members just don't hold the reward he finds in rodeo--most notably, team roping. Recently Ethan took what has been a lifelong love of horses a step further, moving into the competitive world of high school rodeo.

"My dad first got horses when he was young, my grandpa had them and he trail rode a lot," Ethan explained. "And then my dad got into it and started taking his horse. Then dad's horse had a colt, and we had some give to us, and pretty soon we had several."

The involvement of his father, Kevin, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Piggott, and older brothers Tanner and Logan, helped the younger Murray lay the groundwork for the sport he enjoys today. "I guess I've been around horses since I was about four or five, we had a little pony--but later we outgrew it and we gave it to somebody else and let them have it for awhile. I really don't remember ever not being around horses. Dad taught me all about them and we just went from there."

But, as it is with most athletes, Ethan chose to further test his skills once given the opportunity, and the sport he chose was team roping, or heading and heeling.

"Trail riding got sort of boring, so we started looking for something else to do and that's when we started roping," he explained. "It's a lot more fun, and more action and you get the chance to try to win some money every now and then. I really like team roping--it's a lot of fun."

Team roping is just that, two riders combining to rope a steer by lassoing it by the head and back feet. Each team is comprised of both a "header" the role Ethan plays in his team, and the "heeler" which is the job of his teammate, Trevor.

In competition, the calf is released and moments later the barrier falls allowing the riders to pursue. The header then lassos the calf in one of the three legal manners--over both horns, around the neck or the "half head" of over one horn and around the nose. The heeler is then responsible for lassoing the back legs, with a five second penalty assessed if only one is secured. Once both ends are secure, and the ropes stretched tight, the clock stops for the official time.

As he did with riding, Ethan once again followed in the footsteps of his dad to develop his interest in roping. "I started out at Wade Harris' house roping. Dad started going out there and roping, so I started roping every now and then, just occasionally," he remembered. But, in the time since the younger Murray feels he may have gained the upper hand. "Then I just seemed to get better and better the more I practiced, and now I think I'm better than dad," he added with a smile.

Ethan's path also stems from he and his family's involvement with the Thousand Hills Cowboy Church at Poplar Bluff, which along with the Harry Blackwell auto dealerships in Malden and Dexter, are sponsors of his rodeo effort. "My teammate is Trevor Dorris from Harviell, Mo., he goes to Neelyville Schools and I met him at Cowboy Church--in fact his whole family goes to Cowboy Church," Ethan noted. "Earlier this year he found this information about the Kentucky High School Rodeo and asked me if I thought it was something I might want to do, and I said sure, let's go."

This led to the team's first rodeo competition, held earlier this month in Memphis and hosted by the Tennessee High School Rodeo Association. "We went to the five states rodeo in Memphis, it was a three day event and we went down Friday but didn't rope until Saturday morning," Ethan explained. "When we ran our first one that morning we could have won it with the 7.8 we got, but I broke the barrier and that means a plus 10 second (penalty)."

The following afternoon the team got their second shot. "We got out good," he explained. "I didn't break the barrier, and I roped it, but my heeler missed."

Despite the outcome of their first competition, the duo is looking forward to more action in the months to come. "There's a small rodeo series that will be going on this summer around Northeast Arkansas and Southeast Missouri," Ethan noted. "And we'll probably heel a little bit and maybe do some calf roping and other things. We've also got some other high school rodeo events coming up this spring."

Ethan is also quick to point out the importance of not only his partner Trevor, but also his horse. "I had a real good horse that I rode when I was younger, but the other day I bought a new horse from Blake Tanner," he explained. "His name is Dusty, and he's a little bigger and a little faster--and for rodeo the cows are a bit faster and you need a horse that's faster--in team roping one of the main keys is your horse."

"For the most part the rodeo folks I've met are really friendly," he said of the people he has encountered during his early experiences in the sport. "Most of them will help you out and do anything they can to help you do what you need to do."

But, Ethan also realizes that to fully reach his potential some sacrifices must be made. "I showed cattle last year, and I might keep doing that in the future, it's just according to how the rodeo goes. Rodeos and livestock shows are both held on weekends so you can only go one way, and I'd rather rodeo than show cows," he explained.

Helping insure that Ethan reaches that potential is the support he has received from his family, which includes not only his dad and older brothers, but his mother, Johnna Murray and younger brother Lane. "They've always given me 100 percent, and that matters a lot to me," he said of his family. "They're helping me out any way they can, and it's allowing me to have a great time."

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