GONZALES— Cowboys and cowgirls are practicing in arenas around the state for the Southeast Louisiana High School Rodeo Association’s annual rodeo, set to start March 8 at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center.

Association President Andree Guillory said more than 350 junior and high school riders and ropers will compete during the three-day event.

Guillory’s daughters, Madison, 12, and Elise, 15, are just two of the club members who are preparing for the local rodeo.

For St. Amant High School’s Dylan Tucker, 17, bull riding is part of a long family tradition that started with her great-grandfather.

In his fifth year of riding bulls in rodeo competitions, Tucker is planning to “go pro immediately after graduation.”

Tucker started competing at age 4 in a sheep-riding event. He’s been hooked on the sport ever since.

The broken ribs and fractured jaw he received over the years haven’t hampered his willingness to climb on a large bull in the hopes of staying on for eight seconds.

“It’s an adrenaline thing,” Tucker said during a recent gathering of association members.

Bull riders Brandon “BC” Cummings, 17; Cody Martinez, 14; and Courtland Benedict, 16, agreed with Tucker.

“You know you’re going to get hurt, but you still love it,” Cummings said.

“It’s not if you get hurt, it’s how and when,” Tucker said.

As bull riders, it’s difficult to find bulls for practice sessions, Tucker said.

The closest practice bulls are some 500 miles away, he said.

So, the bull riders work out and try to stay physically fit in between rodeo events.

The girls who compete in barrel racing, pole bending and other events have more opportunities to hone their skills.

The Guillory sisters spend countless hours practicing atop their horses.

“It takes a lot of dedication and practice,” Andree Guillory said. “These kids are really committed to rodeo and spend a lot of time taking care of their horses. It’s a big responsibility.”

Despite the long hours feeding and caring for horses, barrel racer Erin Roach, 15, said she loves rodeo “because of the great environment.”

“We’re all so close and we’re really a family,” she said.

Tanzi Stafford, 12; Jada Moran, 14; Kassie deVeer, 15; Shannon Heath, a St. Amant High School senior; and Haylie Heath, a junior, are also part of the Southeast Louisiana High School Rodeo Association family that will be competing in March.

The second split of rodeo season starts this weekend in Bastrop and continues through the summer, Andree Guillory said. The first session, which featured rodeos around the state, was held in October and November.

The youth are vying for points and spots in Louisiana High School and Junior High Finals Rodeo in June in Lake Charles.

The best of the best will compete in June and July in the national rodeos.

The Southeast Louisiana High School Rodeo Association’s Spring Rodeo starts at 7 p.m. March 8. The junior high school contestants will ride and rope at 10 a.m. March 9, and the high school rodeo continues at 7 p.m. March 9 and 10 a.m. March 10.

Events include barrel racing, team roping, pole bending, calf roping, breakaway roping, goat tying, steer wrestling, ribbon roping and bull riding.

Admission is $6 and children 5 and younger will be admitted for free.