After winning the title of Miss Houston-Harris County in January, junior Liz Hughes, is now training for the title of Miss Rodeo Texas in June.
Hughes, a junior psychology major, said she grew up wanting horses and by the age of 12 had saved up enough money to buy her first horse. She then started going to rodeos and met the right group of people who were able to teach her the correct way to ride, she said.
Annette Veal, Hughes’ pageant coach, said she started coaching Hughes when she was 12 years old. When Hughes was about 14, Veal helped her progress into the pageantry side of the rodeo, she said.
Hughes said the pageantry side of the rodeo consists of questions dealing with the history of the rodeo and a runway show which shows off each individual’s beauty.
In preparation for each pageant, Veal said Hughes practices riding on different horses to develop an ability to adjust to many different types of horses. She also prepares for the interviewing portion by studying the current statistics and history of the rodeo and then keeps up with the latest fashions and trends, Veal said.
“She is such a natural athlete — went to riding instinctively,” Veal said. “But [she] is also such a poised young lady. It was just a natural flow with her looks, her professionalism and her ability to ride.”
Hughes said she participated in her first pageant, the New Boston Roundup Club, around the age of 14. Since then she has won many rodeo pageant titles, such as Little River County Rodeo Queen, Naples Rodeo Queen and Miss United Professional Rodeo Association Queen, she said.
After being defeated in the competition for Miss Rodeo USA in 2011 because of mixed feelings between the judges and losing her UPRA title after a year because of ineligibility, Hughes said she signed up to compete for the title of Miss Houston in order to participate in the Miss Rodeo Texas competition.
Hughes said she got involved with the Miss Houston pageant through word of mouth. She was running for Miss Rodeo Texas and needed another title within the state of Texas in order to compete, she said.
Hughes said the Miss Rodeo Texas organization likes its contestants to have a prior title, whether it be a state title or a title based on what ranch they practice at.
“The Houston Rodeo consists of competition from all over the state of Texas, who are chosen based on a stellar reputation and outstanding recommendations,” Veal said.
Johnnie Nettles, Hughes’ riding coach, said the rodeo included a two-part horsemanship component in the rodeo.
First, contestants sit through a horsemanship interview, consisting of knowledge about the anatomy and maintenance of the horse. Second, contestants complete a riding portion with a standardized pattern to complete.
“Liz always does very well in the horsemanship contest,” Nettles said. “She has won several horsemanship contests where she didn’t win the whole thing, just the horsemanship part.”
Hughes said she is now training for the five-day Miss Rodeo Texas competition in San Antonio. The competition judges horsemanship, where competitors run patterns while riding a random horse, followed by speeches, modeling, interviews, a written test, impromptu questions, on-stage questions and finally multiple appearances.
Hughes said she is now focusing on preparing for the Miss Rodeo Texas and is involved with the rodeo because of the great public speaking skills, and people skills gained from competing.