MANSFIELD - Alexa Buckheit is a local teen making a name for herself as both a beauty queen and skilled rodeo performer competitor.
Buckheit, 19, daughter of Jackie and Dave Buckheit, is an avid equestrian and multiple national Top 10 rider, but it doesn't stop there. The 2011 Mansfield High School graduate also is Miss Rodeo New York.
Pennsylvania does not select a representative for the Miss Rodeo America Pageant, but Pennsylvania girls are eligible to compete for the New York crown.
Buckheit is living in Andover, N.Y., while attending Alfred University to earn a degree in art design with a double minor in equine science and education.
Buckheit said she started taking horseback riding lessons when she was 7 but didn't own her own horse until she was 10.
"The deal was if I could pay for the horse my parents would put up something to keep him in," Buckheit said.
So with the money she earned from the sale of Brittany spaniel puppies, she was able to purchase her first pony for $1,500.
The puppies, which she sold for $800 each, are the "top bloodline of four generations," she said.
"Our last two females averaged eight to 15 puppies a litter," she added.
True to their word, her parents had a four-stall barn built and, with the 30-acre pasture they already owned, Buckheit had her wish.
Now she has three horses at home and one at college, which she boards and rides whenever she can.
The horses are barrel horses, and she has just started getting into breeding so one of them is a 9-month-old stallion.
"Two of the older horses are now loaned to Rainbow Riders in Troy for therapeutic riding for handicapped kids," she said.
Buckheit said she competes in barrel racing, and this year at the State Farm Show also carried the flag for the rodeo.
"I don't have a pro card this year because of my position as queen but I will next year," she said.
In October, she was nominated to be Miss Rodeo New York and became one of the two girls chosen to attend this year's pageant.
As part of the application process, candidates submitted head and full body photos to be judged for their photogenic qualities, several essays and letters of reference from prominent people in the horse community.
She also had to submit a video showing her riding skills.
In her essay, Buckheit wrote "As one of those life-long cowgirls with a strong sense of independence and the drive to succeed, I will strive to promote the rodeo lifestyle and encourage its betterment in our beautiful state."
"Basically, members of the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association can nominate other members to the director in the 18-25 age group who they believe would represent the rodeo and bring it into New York state, but you also must be a strong rider," she said.
The pageant took place on Nov. 7 in Glens Falls, N.Y., during the Adirondack Stampede Rodeo. Contestants answered impromptu questions, modeled, gave a speech, spoke on prominent rodeo topics and were tested on their rodeo knowledge at the pageant.
Buckheit said her questions were on explaining a barrel man's job, which also is known as a rodeo clown, and then she was questioned on how she would handle various scenarios, such as if she is in the arena carrying the flag and a young girl wants to talk to her but she couldn't stop to talk and how she would handle it without hurting the girl's feelings.
"I said I would say it was nice to meet her, give her a hug and invite her to watch and tell her I would come find her afterwards to talk to her," she said.
Buckheit's experience with horses hasn't been injury free, but she hasn't let it keep her off horses.
She has shattered both knee caps multiple times barrel racing and broken bones in the top of her feet, both from having horses step on and fall on her.
Buckheit said after graduation she plans to teach and have her own studio barn to do lessons.
She hopes to graduate from Alfred in 2015.
She will spend parts of this year traveling the country making appearances at prominent rodeos until the Miss Rodeo America Pageant in December.
She will compete in Las Vegas during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the title of Miss Rodeo America.
She will hold a benefit Super Bingo and auction in March to help offset travel expenses, time and place to be announced.