Patrice Yazzie has been a barrel racer since the age of 10. And this dream is still very much alive.
Yazzie, 33, who lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, said that some family members and acquaintances have suggested that she end her career. But Yazzie charges along, travelling from state-to-state, still hoping for rodeo glory. She is not ready to give up yet.
“There are people out there who wonder why I still do it,” Yazzie told ICTMN. "It's just a weekend thing for me now, but I definitely want to turn this into a career."
Yazzie, who is Navajo, stepped away from the sport a few times during the past decade to have a family and take care of her three children. But she always found herself coming back.
"I tried to give it up because I was raised by a single mother as well," she said. "[But] whatever dream you have, you have to pursue it."
Yazzie competes in four rodeo circuits, the Women's Professional Rodeo Association, the All Indian Rodeo Cowboy Association, Central Navajo Rodeo Association and the Southwest Indian Rodeo Association, which is a qualifying circuit for the Indian National Finals Rodeo (INFR).
But, she’s in a challenging situation. Yazzie’s talented enough to have success at pro-rodeo events, but she can't quite afford a top-notch partner.
"I just need to have a fast horse to be competitive at this level," she said. "You need about $50,000 to have a really good horse. I definitely don't have $50,000 to get a horse right now."
Yazzie has two horses that she competes with. Her main one is Dinner-N-Diamonds, a 10-year-old quarterhorse. Her second horse is also a quarterhorse, 15-year-old Dinner With Lou.
"He's been a handful," she said about Dinner-N-Diamonds. "When he was born, his mother died within the first week. It's taken him 10 years to figure it out and to be calm. I think this year is really looking promising for him."
Yazzie with her three children, Brent, 10, Wes, 7, and Kylie, 5.
As for Yazzie, one of her goals this season is to qualify for the INFR finals, traditionally staged in Las Vegas each November. During her career she's advanced to the INFR finals five times. Her next event begins this Friday in Queen Creek, Arizona.
“Age is just a number,” Yazzie said. “And I can't let it go. That fire is still there for me."