By Nicole Kidder-Perry
Since making her royal debut on June 10 during the Grand Entry at the 49th Annual Springdale Frontier Days Open Rodeo, Aubrey Nearing has spent her summer roping, riding and racing around Stevens County. As this year’s 2023 Miss Springdale Open Rodeo Queen, the Nine Mile Falls teen has served with poise and grace as a community ambassador to promote the association’s mission to “preserve our western heritage.”
Nearing has made special appearances at the Colville, Clayton and Newport rodeos. Her Summer 2023 tour continues at the Valley Fair Parade on August 12 and the Springdale PeeWee Rodeo on August 19 and 20, where her siblings and cousin will compete. She also plans to enter the barrel racing, pole bending and goat tying events. Her final stop is the Ritzville Rodeo on September 1.
“I feel so free when I am riding, turning a barrel or going after a cow. There is this really cool electric vibe that goes through you,” Nearing described. “You can feel the power when you aren’t riding with a saddle. I feel unstoppable. It feels like I’m flying. My horse is my wings. You build a bond with a 1,500-pound animal that you can communicate with. He becomes your best friend, and you connect on a different level than with another human.”
Nearing descends from a long line of horse and rodeo enthusiasts that date back six generations. Her great-grandmother, Barb, was a rodeo queen in the 1960s, and her mother, Kelsey, also competed in rodeos as a teen. Her aunt and uncle ran a cattle ranch in Idaho that the family visits every summer. Roping nights, she says, have become a fun family tradition.
“My entire childhood has been all about horsemanship and rodeos. I always loved seeing the queens go by waving,” explained Nearing, who has been riding horses since before she could walk and on her own at age 3. “I am the grandkid who wants to follow in the footsteps of my family. This has been a really amazing experience. I would recommend it for anyone in the horse business or who loves horsemanship.”
Before being crowned queen, Nearing was required to turn in an application, answer a variety of essay questions, and prepare a speech that she delivered to a three-judge panel. She also had to memorize a riding pattern that required her horse, Doc, to showcase his skills in trotting, turning, walking, spinning, loping and switching directions. The competition included answering interview questions about horsemanship and the history of Springdale as well.
As the queen, her duties involve posting on the association’s social media pages, participating in clean up work days as well as attending pro rodeos, where she assists with halftime games, helps with the cows, talks with kids and spreads the word about rodeos. Her favorite part, though, is that she gets to live out her childhood dream of riding in a circle during the opening ceremony and waving to the crowd. She even had a special pair of chaps, created by Indiana Harness, made of cowhide and shiny red fringe. One leg says Springdale, and the other Queen Aubrey. She notes that the name is replaceable if her cousin or sister ever follows in her footsteps and is crowned.
The 16-year-old, who will be a junior at Lakeside High School in the fall, says she spends most of her days training with her two horses. Doc, a white-brown Dunn who she describes as her childhood best friend, is her queen horse. Twister, a dark-brown Bay, is her rodeo horse. Nearing’s goal is to enter more open rodeo competitions. She hopes to eventually compete in breakaway roping, which involves running down a calf on horseback and roping it around the neck. She also plans to pursue barrel racing full-time.
“Riding is a sport, and once you get into it at such a high position, you have to make it your whole life,” said Nearing, who has won three state competitions for cutting. “I have a passion to learn new things and grow as a rider, so attending horse clinics and practicing hours each day is how I spend most of my free time.”
If she isn’t on a horse, then she can likely be found somewhere else outdoors, either camping, surfboating or riding around the motocross track in her yard. She volunteers for Operation Christmas Child and as a ranch hand at Equestrian Partnership Training, where she works with children to build their confidence in horsemanship skills. She has also become a popular babysitter and dog sitter for neighbors in the community.
With plans to continue competing in rodeo pageants, Nearing has her eyes on the big prize to be named the Miss Spokane Interstate Rodeo Queen and then compete for the Miss Teen Washington crown.
“I feel like this experience has definitely helped me grow in horsemanship and has brought me closer to my horse. I’m more thankful and have more appreciation for the privileges of having a horse,” she said. “It has also taught me the importance of determination, to be willing to wake up early and train alone, to keep going even if I lose or have a bad day. If you have just one thing that goes well, that should be your last thing for the day, and then you get back out and try again tomorrow.”