“When it comes to raising your kids in the rodeo, there’s a lot of love, discipline and important values that run deep,” says Ame Faulkner, mom to two young athletes who are heavily involved in all things rodeo.
Ame, a dental hygienist and co-owner at Gilbert Dental Center alongside her brother Todd Faulkner, says that—between all of her children—her family can either be found at the rodeo or a softball game. Two of her daughters, Olivia Gomez, age 19, and Gabriella Gomez, age 12, have been involved in the rodeo for years.
“I love the adrenaline,” Gabriella says about her favorite rodeo activity, goat tying, which both her and Olivia have won multiple awards in. The sisters also specialize in breakaway roping.
Olivia has been involved in the rodeo for 14 years, according to Ame, earning recognition in multiple associations as she went up the ranks. She’s ridden with the Queen Creek Rodeo Association, Arizona Junior Rodeo Association, and Arizona High School Rodeo Association. She has even made it to national competitions with goat tying. Gabriella has followed in her big sister’s footsteps and Ame says that the sisters are extremely close because of their shared passion.
“Rodeo is an AIA [Arizona Interscholastic Association] sport, so there are grade checks and requirements in order to be involved,” Ame says. “Being a rodeo kid is a lot of responsibility. You’re up early to feed and care for the animals, you to go to school, then you’re home to practice and care for the animals again. On the weekends and breaks there is traveling and multiple events. It’s truly a passion for these kids.”
In addition to the kids and teens being dedicated to the sport, there is a lot of family involvement as well. “The parental involvement is crazy; it’s a family sport. But the rodeo association is a family unto itself. It’s hard work, but a lot of love and we all show up for each other.”
Fellow rodeo mom Starr Asquith also works at Gilbert Dental Center at the front desk. She and her husband Todd Asquith are both heavily involved in the rodeo—in fact, she was a rodeo kid herself. Her eldest daughter, Tory, is 13 and a member of the Arizona Junior Rodeo Association. She has been involved in the rodeo for four years. “She has ridden since she was old enough to hold on,” Starr shares.
Starr adds that Tory has won multiple honors in rodeo events, including barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, and breakaways. Tory hopes to continue to move up the ranks and win national competitions as her rodeo journey continues. “There’s a saying that, ‘Rodeo kids have no time to get in trouble.’ Because, when you’re involved in the rodeo, there’s no time for anything else,” Starr says. “Even in the summer, she [Tory] is up at 5 a.m. practicing, then practices again in the evening. The rodeo season is usually September through May but, for families who want to, there are summer events you can travel to as well.”
Like Ame, Starr agrees that being involved in the rodeo is a lot of responsibility for kids—but it’s also a lot of fun and keeps families close. “Not only does rodeo keep your own family close, but the rodeo world is super small and is like one big family itself,” Starr says. “You practice together. You travel together. The rodeo lifestyle is amazing for kids.”