On Becoming a
Photos and Story by Shawna Graves
Among Rance ' s box of belt buckle winnings is this Texas High School Rodeo Association Boys Cutting Champion prize saddle .
Rance Peebles is a soft spoken , modest young man , raised
on working ranches of the Big Bend ; yet he ’ s anything but shy in the saddle .
Since he was a baby , Rance ’ s parents encouraged his desire to ride . He grew up riding drag alongside them , and helping dad , cowboy and spur maker Pee Wee Peebles , work cattle horseback .
The whole family attended rodeo events , and it wasn ’ t long until mother Kyle couldn ’ t keep Rance out of the arena .
“ We could never keep him away . He ’ d jump in the trailer , ready to go ,” Kyle reminisced .
Rance won his first rodeo competition at the Sul Ross State University S . A . L . E . Arena when he was just three years old , beating out the sevenyear-olds in the 4H Freestyle Reining class . “ I was born in this arena ,” he began telling people . Right away , he caught the horse bug , and spent hours , day after day , working his horses and improving his stride .
It ’ s a little unusual , but Rance favors mares for showing and riding , while most prefer geldings . Mares are considered trickier and more difficult to ride , but Rance wouldn ’ t have it any other way . His bond with his mares is evident , and their gentleness is a testament to the time he puts into gaining their trust and caring for them .
He didn ’ t really get serious about competing until high school , three or four years ago , when he became eligible for horse divisions in various rodeos . All his drill practice began to pay off in the Youth Working Cowhorse competition at working ranch rodeos .
The cowhorse competition consists of reined work and cow work . Rance ’ s favorite is the cow work .
Horseback contestants display good manners , smoothness , cow sense and ease of reining as they keep a cow at one end of the arena , making at least one turn in both directions along the fence , and circling the cow in each direction .
Rance Peebles with one of his favorite horses , a mare named Sierra .
They also compete in prescribed reign work , completing a pattern of movement across the arena while horseback , with no cow involved .
Rance benefits from his mom ’ s background in dance . She coaches him in presentation , showmanship and eye appeal . He ’ s graceful and easy in the saddle , a thrill to watch in the arena .
In National High School Rodeo Association competitions , Rance outcompeted in regionals , placing first in the 2020 boys ' cutting division .
Homeschooling has helped Rance pursue his cowhorse passion , giving him the flexibility to attend competitions and the option to customize his curriculum with a heavy dose of cowboy education .
Rance starts a typical day by helping his dad in the pasture , moving cows , branding calves , or picking up bulls , depending on what needs to be done . In the afternoons , he ’ ll ride two or three horses and work on horsemanship .
He won a scholarship to study with a custom saddle maker earlier this year , but the COVID pandemic put a pause on that apprenticeship .
This fall he ’ s spending a month on a professional horse ranch , trading labor for the chance to study with some of Texas ’ s finest horsemen .
Somewhere between all that , he ’ ll find time to complete his senior class schoolwork . After he graduates in Spring 2021 , he plans to attend Clarendon College in the Panhandle , where he ’ ll compete on the Ranch Horse Team .
Supported by his Christian faith , his two brothers , mom , and dad , as well as the wider ranching community , Rance doesn ’ t take all the credit .
“ A lot of people have helped me out , and a lot of it is trial and error . I still don ’ t know very much ,” Rance humbly suggests of his horse skills .
Keep an eye out for Rance at the next ranch rodeo near you .
28 Cenizo Winter 2021