Cousins Mackenzie Becnel, left, and Gracie Sinanan get ready before the Southeast Louisiana High School Rodeo on March 4 at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center.


Cousins Mackenzie Becnel and Gracie Sinanan are rodeo cowgirls, through and through.

While other teens their age may play basketball or softball, the cousins concentrate on rodeo as their sport.

"This is not like any other sport," said Mackenzie, 14, who attends Walker Freshman High. "We work with our horses in our sport ... it's just different but it's a sport nonetheless."

The girls said they train almost daily with their horses and practice skills needed to compete.

Gracie, 14, who attends River Parishes Community College as part of the early college option program and St. Amant High School, said the bond between rider and horse is an important part of most rodeo events.

Gracie and Mackenzie said rodeo riders have to build trust with their horses, a trust that grows over time.

The better the relationship between rider and horse, the better the chances the pair have of winning. And, the girls said, winning is a big part of the thrill of the sport. 

The cousins, who compete in breakaway roping and goat-tying, said they don't mind competing against each other. They may laugh and joke before the rodeo, but when the announcer calls their events and they mount up, things get serious.

Mackenzie said she's made many friends competing on the rodeo circuit, but "when you're competing, you're for yourself ... no more friends."

The teens, along with their families, travel the country competing in rodeo events. Mackenzie's younger brother, Jeb, 6, and sister, Brooke, 10, also compete in rodeos.

Her dad, Joe Becnel, got her involved in rodeo. 

Rodeo has taken Mackenzie to the junior high national event and rodeos around the country. She won two prize saddles and has a large collection of belt buckles she won at various events.

The cousins recently competed in the Southeast Louisiana High School Rodeo at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center. They're part of the Southeast Louisiana High School Rodeo Association, which hosted the rodeo.

Mackenzie was third in goat-tying.

The teens weren't the only locals to compete in the recent rodeo.

Also taking part from Livingston Parish were Kamryn Duncan, Live Oak High School; Logan Espey, Albany High; and Marion Hebert, Walker Freshman High.