Mia Castagnetto, of Lemitar who just finished her sophomore year at Socorro High School, did not have high expectations heading into the New Mexico High School State Rodeo.
“Last year at state finals, I didn’t do good at all,” she said. “It was a bad run.”
And this year she entered the state event coming off a poor showing in her signature event of barrel racing in the final rodeo of the regular season at Farmington.
“I had a bad weekend when we went to Farmington. We would hit the barrels,” Castagnetto said. “I choked on that weekend and that’s when I started to think I wasn’t going to go to nationals. With Farmington, it was a small arena with a tight pattern. The lighting was from the outside of the barn, so it got super light and kind of dark.”
At the finals in Lovington, however, something just clicked for Castagnetto, 15, who will be transferring to Magdalena in the fall.
She finished fourth overall in barrels with 97 points to earn a spot in the nationals that begin July 17 in Gillette, Wyoming, where she will be joined by rising Magdalena sophomore Jorianne Mirabal, who won pole bending with 170 points.
“I think she likes that arena because of how it is and how big the pattern is,” she said of Royal, the black quarter horse she rides. “She was running. I was trying not to get in my head.”
That can be a problem, Castagnetto admitted, and she has taken steps to try and relieve the issue.
“Before my run, I sit there and I don’t like to be alone because I start to think about it so I mostly talk with my friends,” she said. “When I hear my name, I get off Royal, tighten my cinch and walk her around and take deep breaths and try not to think about it.”
Finding success, though, was a tremendous achievement.
“It felt really rewarding,” Castagnetto said. “I’ve been working so hard all the season to get to nationals and my mom has been on my butt about it, so it was a really good feeling.”
As for expectations for nationals, the hope is to simply put on a solid performance, Castagnetto said.
“It’s going to be a new arena I want to do good, but I don’t know how it’s going to go,” she said.
Castagnetto, who has grown up riding since she was about 2, has been riding Royal for about five years now and the two together have made a strong barrels team, an event she didn’t even like before.
“I never really used to enjoy because I didn’t have a fast horse,” she said. “But Royal is quick. I really like being quick on the barrels. That’s when I started enjoying it, when me and her clicked.”
The two have a similar temperament, although at first Royal was a bit much to handle.
“When we first got her, I didn’t really ride her because she had a lot of speed. But one day my mom just threw me on her and then after that, that was it. I really liked her. I like the fast horses and the crazier ones. She’s a lot like that. It took me a year or two to get where I am with her. Me and calm horses never really click. They seem more stubborn to me. The faster ones, me and them click a lot more. I don’t like the calm, fast ones, I like the crazy fast ones, that don’t even like to walk.”
And that’s something Castagnetto can relate to.
“A lot of people kind of say that’s how I am,” she said with a laugh.