Mallory Coit loves horses so much that she picked a high school with an equine program just so that she could ride them more often.
And now she’s getting the chance to represent that school, Historic Durham Ferry Academy, at the California High School Rodeo Finals in Bishop – putting her skills on a cutting horse to the test against the best riders in the state.
Not bad for somebody who competed in her first rodeo her junior year.
Coit, 18, will be riding Scarlett when she competes in an event this weekend that will test her mettle as a handler of her horse as she tries to single out cows from a herd, cut them away, and then prevent them from simply circling back around to rejoin the rest while judges watch her position, her placement, and her demeanor in one of the most difficult events in high school rodeo.
“I like that it’s not just a race against the clock – you have to know what you want to do and that takes a different skill,” Coit said. “It’s not the horse that does all of the work, it’s you that has to decide what the horse is going to do and it’s just something that I really enjoy doing.”
Under the tutelage of Shonna Beam and Rhonda Reed who run the equine program at Historic Durham Ferry, and Brian Gruenig who has been coaching her on proper cutting techniques, Coit has made quite the splash on the high school rodeo scene despite getting involved late in her high school career.
She already has two buckles to her credit – one from the Sherri Cervi Youth Championships and one from a recent competition this season as she worked to accumulate the points to move on to the pinnacle of California high school rodeo – and has the opportunity in Bishop to qualify for the National High School Rodeo Finals if she finished at the top of her pack.
Coit will be one of five finalists from District 5 – which encompasses San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tuolumne, Mariposa, Merced, Calaveras, Amador and Alpine counties – that will be a part of the field of 45 vying for the chance to compete at the sports highest level – in the cutting competition.
And while she will go on to Fresno State in the fall and further her rodeo career, the road to Bishop marks the culmination of what has become a big part of her family ever since she first rode into the arena just over two years ago.
According to her father Tony Coit, a South Manteca hay farmer, he never thought that his family would be a horse family, or that he would spend his weekends traveling the State of California from Red Bluff to Bakersfield.
But when talking about how proud he was to see his daughter make the splash that she has, he choked back tears as he talked about how great the experience has been for not only his daughter, but his family as well.
“We’ve had so many great people that have helped us along the way, and I’m going to miss seeing all of them – which is crazy, because I never thought that we would be doing this,” Coit said, wiping his eyes. “We went from just one horse when on her 16th birthday to five horses, and each of them a big part of this.
“I now think that every girl should get a horse on her 16th birthday because my daughter doesn’t worry about else but going out and riding and competing to the best that she can – it’s what she loves to do, and the greatest thing in the world to watch.”
But getting to this point hasn’t been a cakewalk.
For one, high school rodeo isn’t free – from the horses to the travel, it’s the athletes themselves that foot the bill to chase their dreams of rodeo glory, and that often means that families have to invest a sizable amount of money in addition to securing sponsors.
Then there’s the amount of work that goes into prepping for races and events in the district known for being one of if the most competitive in the entire State of California. It wouldn’t be uncommon for Coit to drop Mallory off at Gruenig’s Oakdale ranch on a Monday and then pick her up on Thursday – nearly every minute in between spent in the saddle working as hard as she can to get better.
The second she climbs on the horse and works her way into the arena, however, it becomes apparent to anybody watching that Mallory is doing what it is that she loves – evident by the ear-to-ear grin that she has on her face as she’s working through the herd to single out a cow, or staring it down as it dances back and forth and she and her steed keep it from doing what comes naturally to a herd animal.
Excelling in a true cowboy event isn’t something that she ever thought that she would be doing, but with the hopes of another buckle – this time one of the most coveted in the sport – fresh on her mind, Mallory Coit says that she’s ready to face the competition in Bishop and looks forward to the opportunity.
“With horses its really all about the payoff,” she said. “You get a horse and it’s a prospect – you have to break it and work with it and eventually you get the chance to ride it and compete and you know that you did that – that you’re the one who put in the work to get it that point.
“That payoff is what it’s all about.”
Coit is sponsored by Paul Jocelyn Coit, Freddie and Kathy Rich of Fonseca Farms, Azevedo Investments, Garton Tractor, Shonna Beam and Rhonda Read, Fagundes Meats and Catering, Christina and John Castro, Brian and Melanie Gruenig of Gruenig Performance Horses. She is the daughter of Marchelle and Tony Coit.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.