Not her first rodeo: Noblesville High School senior moving up competition ladder in horseback events


When Noblesville High School senior Bella Slone and her rodeo coach Ryan Hollingsworth discussed her goals for the sport, Slone told Hollingsworth she wanted to qualify for the National Little Britches Rodeo Association Finals.

To qualify, Slone must finish in the top seven in each rodeo she competes in for her two specialty events: poles and breakaway. Poles requires horseback riders to weave through a straight line of poles as fast as possible. Breakaway is a calf-roping event that also requires speed.

Slone, 17, has two more years in the National Little Britches Rodeo Association, which is for kids ages 5 to 18.  Her age group is 14 to 18. She is still working to move up the qualifying ladder.

“I knew I always really wanted to do rodeo,” Slone said. “But I didn’t know where to go or how to start because I just feel like in this area, it’s kind of hard to find that.”

Interested in working on a rodeo event called team roping, where competitors rope a calf with a partner, Slone contacted Hollingsworth, who instead encouraged her to try breakaway and poles. Hollingsworth said he had a horse that could perform those events for her, and breakaway and poles would help her achieve her goals the fastest.

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Bella Slone celebrates with her coach, Ryan Hollingsworth, after competing in a rodeo. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Hollingsworth)

Slone has been working with Hollingsworth for eight months and has her sights set on the National Little Britches Rodeo Association Finals set for June 30-July 6 in Guthrie, Okla. To qualify, a competitor must place in the top seven for six total rodeos in each event they compete in. The points they earn in the rodeos accumulate and show individuals where they place among other competitors in their age bracket in the National Little Britches Rodeo Association.

Slone has competed in six rodeos so far in Indiana and placed in the top seven in each except one. She competes one to two weekends a month, she said.

An event Slone remembers fondly is placing in the top five in both of her events in September 2023 at a rodeo in Danville at the Hendricks County Fairgrounds.

“I’(d) been envisioning (that) weekend in my head and hoping it goes well,” Slone said. “I have it all planned out and then I finally get there and what I had in my head became a reality.”

For breakaway, Slone had to learn how to swing and throw a rope, Hollingsworth said. Then, she worked on roping a dummy on the ground, roping while on top of a saddle in a saddle rack and roping a dummy being pulled by a four-wheeler while on horseback. Hollingsworth said he will get calves in April for Slone to practice on.

Hollingsworth, vice president of Central Indiana Little Britches Rodeo Association, said he decided to train Slone because he could see her commitment.

“That was part of the whole process of watching her rope for two months without a horse because most people would come over and be like, ‘OK, I’m leaving if I can’t get on a horse,’” Hollingsworth said. “Well, if you can’t put the time and effort into it, I’m not going to take time away from my family to give you if you’re not sold in it. And she was, so it was an easy decision to coach and be part of it.”

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Bella Slone competes in poles. (Photo courtesy of Bella Slone)


Founded in 1952, the National Little Britches Rodeo Association is a youth rodeo organization for ages 5 to 18, according to its website. Its goal is to develop the spirit of fair competition and appreciation of good sportsmanship through rodeo competition.

The association annually sanctions more than 500 youth rodeos in 33 states, which allows association members to earn points and qualify for the finals. According to its website, more than 3,300 kids from 33 states compete in the association’s rodeos each year.