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Tom Smart, Deseret News
Carson Hamilton, from the Bridgerland Club, rides a saddle bronc at the Utah High School Rodeo Finals in Heber on Wednesday. Hundreds of students are competing in the event.

HEBER CITY — When Cortni and Collin Pace rolled into the Utah High School State Rodeo Finals on Wednesday, they brought backup — two horse trailers, two trucks, two RVs and a minivan full.

They brought their rodeo groupies: Mom, Dad, a couple of starry-eyed younger siblings, some aunts, uncles, cousins and a pair of proud grandparents.

"Rodeo is definitely a family affair," said Rande Pace, Cortni and Collin's father. "That's why we love it. It's an excuse to spend a weekend together."

And they brought their sizable entourage of quarter horses: Tequila, Cindy, Zim, Mac, Zack and Quixote.

"If you want to be competitive, you've got to have good horses," said Rande Pace, who lives in Provo and farms in Lehi.

For Cortni and Collin Pace, who each qualified to compete in three different events at the Wasatch County Fairgrounds this week, being competitive means having a different, specially trained horse for each event. The two worked all year to accrue enough points to qualify for a chance at the state titles, so they certainly aren't taking any chances now.

"We've got the horses, so we figure we might as well use them," said Rande Pace, who keeps about 40 horses on his farm. "It got to the point we'd have to take two horse trailers anyway, so if there was an empty spot in the trailer we'd just take another horse as a backup."

Filling the gas tanks to lug six horses (sometimes nine, depending on how many events the children do) back and forth to rodeos can cost up to $500 a trip, said Janice Pace, Collin and Cortni's mother. But, for a largely horse-centric family like the Paces, it's worth it.

"Rodeo's what the kids want to do," she said. "It keeps them out of trouble."

Collin Pace, a soon-to-be-sophomore at Lehi High, teamed up with Tequila, a spirited palomino, to take down a calf in 17.6 seconds Wednesday morning in the tie-down roping competition.

It was a team effort, he said. Collin Pace roped the calf and Tequila put the brakes on hard to drag him down.

Seventeen seconds isn't Collin Pace's best time, but, he said, "That wasn't Tequila's fault. I messed up tying the calf's legs."

"Tequila and I work really good together," he said. "He's working the rope really good."

Tequila and Cortni Pace, on the other hand, don't get along so well. That's why the family brought Cindy, a steadier bay roan, for Cortni Pace's roping event — breakaway roping.

Cortni Pace, who just graduated from Lehi High with a 3.9 grade point average, raised and trained Cindy herself. They know each other so well, Cindy can tell if her rider is nervous and gets "antsy."

If a horse is well trained in an event, Cortni Pace said, the rider doesn't have to worry about telling the animal what to do. The cowgirl only gets a few seconds to rope her sprinting calf, so cutting out extra work is imperative.

"It's really hard if you're not confident in your horse because you have to do your job and help them with their job," Cortni Pace said.

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