Brandy Boyle can count her rodeo winnings in saddles and buckles. In the last two years she has added nine new saddles, and her buckle collection has grown to 100.
The 16-year-old Simi Valley girl cleaned up at the Conejo Valley Days Junior Rodeo last year, winning the best-all-around award in her age group. She is gearing up for this year's rodeo Friday at Conejo Creek Park in Thousand Oaks.
Her specialty is the goat-tying event, and it's not for wimps. She races on horseback across the arena to a goat that is tied to a stake with a 10-foot rope. With the clock ticking, she must dismount, catch the goat, wrestle it to the ground and tie three of its legs together.
At 5 feet, 2 inches tall and 120 pounds, she has tremendous strength and will. Her only concessions to the sport are the braces she wears to support her knees.
"Nothing seems to bother me," she said. "I don't get nervous or scared."
Maybe that's because she has ridden horses since she was old enough to hang on, according to her mother, Shelley Boyle. Maybe it's also in her genes.
Her mother is a stunt rider and has appeared in hundreds of movie and television productions. Her father, Mike Boyle, is a wrangler who cares for the horses on movie sets. Her 8-year-old brother, Patrick, has been a rodeo competitor since he was 4 and also will compete in the Conejo Valley Days Junior Rodeo.
The family lives at the end of Tapo Canyon Road on a 67-acre spread where they practice their rodeo skills on eight steers and four calves.
Every weekday after school, Brandy tends her five horses and works on barrel racing, roping and other rodeo events. She doesn't come inside until dark.
"That's when I start my homework," she said. Despite the schedule, she maintains a 3.5 grade-point average.
Two weekends a month, the family loads up the horses and gear and travels to a rodeo for competition. Brandy's been doing it since she was 8.
"It gets old after a while," she said. "But it keeps me out of trouble and in shape."
Her goal is to win a rodeo scholarship to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo which has a top-notch rodeo team, she said. She is thinking about a career as an architect or a physical therapist.
"Rodeo will always be a hobby," she said.
Brandy is among 150 members of the Junior Rodeo Assn. The association holds 12 rodeos a year from Santa Maria to the Mexican border, including the one in Thousand Oaks. Riders as young as 4 and as old as 18 compete.
They race around barrels, rope calves, ride calves and steers, and gallop through a slalom course. One of the gutsiest events is called "chute dogging." The contestant grabs hold of a steer's horn and neck, runs alongside when it is released from the chute and attempts to wrestle it to the ground.
The prizes for each event are buckles, spurs or $45. The winners go on to the association's championship. During this year's Junior Rodeo, professional bull and bronco riders will give demonstrations.
The Junior Rodeo will be followed on Saturday and Sunday by adults competing in the Flying U Rodeo, sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Circuit Assn. The events include bull riding, steer wrestling, calf roping, barrel racing and bareback riding.
* WHERE AND WHEN
Conejo Valley Days Junior Rodeo will begin at 7 p.m. Friday at Conejo Creek Park, located at California 23 and Janss Road in Thousand Oaks. The Flying U Rodeo, featuring professional riders, runs Saturday at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1 and 4 p.m.