Laura Dean Bennett
She’s a cowgirl from a long line of cowboys.
Mya Workman, of Hillsboro, has a lot to live up to – a family who takes their cattle farming seriously – and a Workman family history of five generations and eight generations of McNeels in her pedigree.
This fourteen year-old’s heritage seems evident in her work ethic, her way with horses and her determination to succeed.
Mya, who is just finishing eighth grade, has just been named West Virginia Junior High School Rodeo’s Reserve All Around Cowgirl.
She started riding when she was seven years old and joined West Virginia Junior High School Rodeo Association three years ago when she started sixth grade.
“I just always knew it was something I wanted to do,” she said simply. “I grew up being friends with Hannah Burks and we’d ride together.
“Her cousin, Nicole Brock started teaching me and I started out on one of her older horses, C2.”
Naturally, Mya loves farm life, and she loves horses.
“My first rodeo horse was Trigger, and I’ll never forget him. He was a quarter horse who was already twenty years old when my Papa, [grandfather] Skeeter Workman, bought him when he was out west years ago,” Mya remembered.
“Papa bought him to work on the farm gathering cattle, and Trigger had never even seen a barrel race or rodeo.
“I wanted to learn how to do some of that, so he learned with me. Trigger was just awesome and he did anything I asked him to.
“He passed away peacefully on our farm about a year ago,” Mya said softly. “Now I’m riding a bay quarter horse named Gus and a palomino named Duke.
“I do pole bending, goat-tying and team roping and breakaway roping with Gus.
“This is my first year competing with him in the roping events.
“He is very well trained and he’s been very patient with me while I catch on to roping.
“I have to thank my uncle and aunt (Jarrett and Emily McLaughlin) for a lot of my roping knowledge.
“Uncle Jarrett started me in roping.
“I love breakaway roping, it’s something different,” Mya said, smiling.
“Breakaway is when you put your horse in the roping box and they let a calf out and you catch it as quick as you can and the rope breaks away from the saddle horn but stays on the calf,” she explained.
Mya says she practices roping twice a week.
“We have a roping dummy that Mom pulls along behind the 4-wheeler while I ride Gus and practicing roping.
“I ride Duke in barrel racing. Duke is the son of a quarter horse that was a wedding present to my dad and mom from a family friend.
“Duke had never been to a rodeo until I came along, but he’s taking to it just fine,” she said proudly.
Asked if she gets nervous when she’s competing, Mya said, “Well, it’s mostly a lot of adrenaline.”
Does she ever fall?
“Oh, I’ve fallen at home when I’m training lots of times, and I’ve even fallen in the arena at a rodeo,” she said.
“It’s not fun, but you just have to get past it.
“Outside the arena, before an event, I visualize what we’re going to do, and I talk to my horse sometimes, too.
“I wish they could understand what I say,” she laughed.
Maybe her horses do understand what she’s saying, because Mya has been consistently successful in competition.
“I qualified the past two years to compete in the junior high world finals, and I’m proud that I qualified this year, too,” Mya said.
“I also qualified to compete in Fort Worth, Texas, this past March in the Under 15 Breakaway event.
“That was the first time my family and I had ever travelled to Texas.”
Mya qualified for this year’s finals at the WVJHS rodeo in Dailey, two weeks ago, so she and her family will be heading to Iowa this summer.
Mya expects to face some stiff competition – she’ll be up against the best rodeo riders in her age range.
“There are more people riding and a lot faster times to beat, but it’s exciting and I’ll just try my best,” Mya said.
The family celebrated Mya’s achievement at a WVMSRA dinner held at the rodeo arena in Dailey.
“We all had dinner together that night – the whole rodeo team ate together – with all the West Virginia rodeo kids,” Mya said.
“The Dailey rodeo was a big one. It was high school, junior high school, youth (eight and younger), and pee-wee (six and under) rodeo riders,” she explained.
“My cousins, Brinley and Emmet McLaughlin won buckles, too.
“Brinley does barrels and poles, goats and dummy roping, and Emmett does all of that plus mutton busting – that’s sheep riding,” Mya explained.
In addition to being named the West Virginia Junior High School Rodeo Reserve All Around Cowgirl, Mya also won a Breakaway Roping Buckle and Goat Tying Buckle.
The WVJHS Rodeo riders are awarded a buckle for winning the most points during the year for their age group in an event.
Mya gives a lot of the credit to her horses.
“Gus and Duke are really good horses.”
And she gives credit to her family, too.
“I’m lucky to have a family that supports me with my riding,” she added.
“We are proud of Mya and all the hard work she puts into training and getting prepared for rodeos,” Mya’s mom, Dawn Workman, said. “It’s a commitment for all of us, but she loves it.”
“We enjoy taking her to the rodeos,” Mya’s dad, Matt Workman, said. “It’s a lot of fun but it does take a lot of time and money.”
And both sets of Mya’s grandparents enjoy watching her ride. Skeeter and Nora Workman and Cindy and David McLaughlin go to as many of Mya’s rodeos as they can.
To be competitive, a WVJHS rodeo rider has to travel around the state and region year around.
Mya and her parents go to at least one rodeo a month.
“Dad drives, and he has the trip all mapped out before we leave,” Mya said.
“Mom makes our food for the trip.”
Rather than staying in motels, they have a truck that pulls a gooseneck horse trailer with a camper compartment which is their home away from home at the rodeos.
“It’s really fun traveling with the horses, and it makes it a lot nicer being able to stay near them,” Mya says.
“We put them up in stalls on the rodeo grounds and we park nearby.”
Mya’s older brother, Wyatt, usually stays on the farm to take care of things while Mya and her parents hit the rodeo circuit, but when he can, he pitches in, too.
“Wyatt hauls me and my horse around when we go to local rodeos – the ones that are about two hours from home,” Mya explained.
Traveling to rodeos doesn’t get in the way of Mya’s schoolwork.
“I’m usually doing homework in the truck when we’re traveling.”
“My teachers know I do rodeo, and I guess they think it’s okay because I’m a pretty good student,” she said.
Her favorite subjects are social studies and English language arts.
In addition to riding, Mya also plays basketball for the Marlinton Copperheads. She belongs to the Little Levels 4-H Club and shows sheep at the Pocahontas County Livestock Show and at the West Virginia State Fair.
Besides keeping up with her school work, her 4-H projects and practicing rodeo skills, Mya has responsibilities on the farm.
“Every morning and evening, I feed the horses and the sheep,” she said.
“In the summer, I help make hay – pull the rake or help load square bales on the wagon – and I help put them away, too.
“Sometimes I go and get the cattle in on horseback, or ride out and check the cattle.”
Next year Mya will be in ninth grade – in high school – facing harder competition at the rodeos and she’s looking forward to it.
“I’ll stay with these same events and, hopefully, just keep getting better,” she said. “Mostly I love being there with my rodeo friends, my family and my horses.
“The best things about rodeo is the confidence it builds in you and, all the friends you make and experiences you have along the way.
“Rodeo isn’t always easy. I don’t always have the best runs, but at the end of the day I know I’m a better person – win or lose – because I’m learning something every time I get in the saddle and ride,” she said, philosophically.
Will this young cowgirl always ride?
“Absolutely,” Mya answered.
“I would ride horses everyday if I could.
“I hope I can still ride rodeo after high school, either in college or by joining other organizations,” Mya said.
“The best thing about being around horses is that they don’t talk to you but they definitely communicate, and they have huge personalities.
“They love you no matter what.
“I’ll always have horses – for the rest of my life.”