Franklin teen set to compete for national rodeo queen title

The threat of life-altering (or life-ending) injury is enough to scare most teenage girls away from the sport of rodeo. To Rebekah Legan, they’re just regular old occupational hazards.

Legan has had her right leg crushed, and she sustained enough damage to her back during another incident that her right shoulder sits higher than her left. But if you think the Franklin resident is giving this stuff up, you’re even crazier than some folks probably think she is.

Born into a rodeo family (her dad, Matt, has been roping since he was 16), Legan didn’t begin competing herself until she started barrel racing at county fairs when she was 12. Since then, she’s been all in — and she’s becoming a major ambassador for the sport statewide.

Last month, Legan was named the Indiana High School Rodeo Queen, winning a challenging six-part competition; next week, she’ll head west to compete for the nationwide crown against more than 50 other girls at the National High School Finals Rodeo in Rock Springs, a small city of about 23,000 tucked in the southwest corner of Wyoming.

(It’s roughly a 20-hour drive from Johnson County if you’re in a regular vehicle; when you’re driving in an RV and pulling a horse trailer, that becomes more like 24.)

The queen competition consists of six categories: Horsemanship (completing a pattern on horseback); a 15-minute interview; a written test about the National High School Rodeo Association rulebook; a two-minute speech; modeling various traditional Western attire; and answering an impromptu question from the judges.

For Legan, a senior-to-be at Indian Creek who was the Indiana High School Rodeo Association’s Rookie of the Year this past season in addition to taking home queen honors, the last of those hurdles was the most nerve-wracking.

“I give a lot of speeches through FFA and such,” she said, “so that wasn’t necessarily where I was concerned, and I’m riding a really great horse, so that made the horsemanship go a little easier. But to come up with something on the spot — and to make sure it was lengthy enough to where it wasn’t just a quick answer.”

Making her quest for the national queen title even more challenging is the fact that Legan is also competing in two other rodeo events in Wyoming.

She’ll partner with Maddy Clark for the team roping event — which also happens to be her dad’s forte. Clark will be tasked with trying to rope the horns or head of a steer, while Legan will fill the role of the heeler, has to rope both of the steer’s hind legs while riding from behind.

In addition, Legan is competing in goat tying, an event in which she rides toward a tethered goat, dismounts her horse while on the move and then has to catch the goat and tie three of its legs together as quickly as possible.

While Legan believes she’s stronger at goat tying, she thinks she and Clark are more likely to place higher in team roping because of the strength of competition in the two events.

Fortunately for Legan, she doesn’t have to travel far to practice.

About four years ago, her family moved from Bargersville to a sprawling property in southwestern Franklin that includes horse stables and both indoor and outdoor roping areas; with a relative lack of other venues nearby, the Legans sometimes host team roping competitions at their home.

The Legans are friends with the former owners; buying the property was Matt’s dream for quite some time.

“He says we had the only not-flat part of ground in Bargersville,” said Rebekah’s mother, Jess. “There really wasn’t a place to rope.”

The Legans aren’t the only local rodeo family. Owen Schlageter of Bargersville boards his horses at the Legan farm and will be Rebekah’s team roping partner next year; he currently competes in the National Little Britches Rodeo Association (for kids ages 5 to 18) and is taking part in that circuit’s national championships this week in Oklahoma. Fellow county residents Finley Lynch, Wade Lynch and Katie Shirley are also active in NLBRA.

Joining the Legan family on their westward journey will be a pair of horses: Tadpole, a family horse that Rebekah will ride for the team roping and goat tying events, and Play, a loaner from a family friend who she’ll use for the queen contest. (Her usual rodeo mount, Wingnut, will be sitting this one out.)

The competition in Wyoming will be fierce — especially for the queen contest, which for many of the 52 entrants is their sole year-round focus. But Legan, who hopes to join a rodeo team in college and lists Tennessee-Martin as her top choice, would like to win so she can shine a spotlight on a state that often gets overlooked in her west-dominated sport.

“To bring in that many points for a state that you wouldn’t think of as a cowboy state would just mean a lot to me and it would mean a lot to my team,” she said. “But to bring home a national title? Indiana has only ever had one NHSRA national title, and it was for the middle school division, so to bring something home would just be so big to open people’s eyes to the rodeo in Indiana and try to bring the Western way of life into the Midwest would mean so much.”