Jared Felkins and Cory Schuren
Dec 17, 2015 at 5:18 PM
Jordan Davis is a typical kindergartener at Southside Elementary School.
She likes the typical stuff 5 year olds like and does the typical things 5 year olds like to do.
“I like to watch TV a lot, and I like to play with my stuffed animals,” Jordan Davis said. “I have a teddy bear, so I really like teddy bears, too.”
Much of her time, however, is spent in the barn, at the rodeos and horse shows and mostly learning the ropes of being a cowgirl. This typical 5 year old is anything but typical when she’s in the saddle or, better yet, clung to the back of a bucking, racing sheep.
For many 5 year olds, terms like barrel racing, mutton busting and goat ribbon pulling isn’t in their vocabulary. But Jordan Davis is all about it.
“I do the barrels and poles and figure eight,” Jordan Davis said. “I’m pretty good. I didn’t win a trophy this week, but I plan on doing it again next year.”
The only child of Kenneth and Tonya Davis, Jordan has competed on the junior rodeo circuit for less than a year. But she’s already excelling at it, winning several events this past season. It’s something Jordan said she wants to continue to do because it’s so much fun.
“I feel like I’m swinging because ponies go really fast,” she said. “You go back and forth kind of like a swing or a roller coaster.”
Even though her official rodeo experience is limited at this point, she’s no stranger to the scene. In fact, it could be said she’s been training for it for her entire life.
“She’s always been around horses,” Tonya Davis said. “We have a picture of her daddy holding her at a week old riding a horse. She got her first pony at 2 years old.
“This year, she has really taken off. She’s really had a good year. Most girls her age are either trotting or being led. Jordan just takes off and goes.”
It might also be said Jordan has been training for rodeo even since before she was born. Her parents met at a horse show, were married 12 years ago and the rest is rodeo history.
“When we moved to Lebanon, we bought a farm on Hickory Ridge,” Tonya Davis said. “I did high school rodeo. I went on and won Miss Rodeo Tennessee in 1995. I’ve shown horses and rodeo raced just about my entire life. It’s just what we’ve done and what we do.”
Her husband agreed.
“My wife and I have both been involved in rodeo and showing horses all our lives,” Kenneth Davis said. “Jordan has been brought into the rodeo and horse show arena with us. She really enjoys it, and we enjoy taking her. It’s a good way to promote good family atmosphere, so that’s why we do it.”
Jordan Davis currently competes in the Middle Tennessee Junior Rodeo and Southern Tennessee All-Star Rodeo Association events across Middle Tennessee. In STAR, she currently leads in points in barrel racing and poles.
In November, Tonya said Jordan will begin competing in Little Britches events, which has a national finals in Colorado for her age group.
At the STAR events, Tonya Davis said her daughter got a chance to see mutton busting – an event where a young rider gets on the back of a sheep and tries to hold on as long as possible. Jordan had to give it a try.
“That is actually a little kid’s version of bull riding,” Tonya Davis said. “I don’t have any intentions of her becoming a bull rider, but she loves it.
“She beat 14 little boys her first time out, and she did it again at her next rodeo. She and her daddy have been bucking on the living room floor ever since she was a baby.”
Jordan Davis said now, it’s her favorite competition.
“I do a little sheep riding,” she said. “I fell off only one time, and the sheep nearly squished me because he came down on top of me. You have to wear special equipment like a vest and a football helmet.
“I do feel really scared when they let me go on the sheep. It’s fun. It’s kind of my favorite event at the rodeo.”
For her parents, safety is a top concern, especially when it comes to the mutton busting.
“We take all precautions we can take,” Kenneth Davis said. “She wears a helmet when she rides, and she wears a helmet with a facemask and a vest when she’s riding sheep. Not all parents make their children ride wearing a helmet, but we believe in it.
“We make sure the ponies she rides are safe and won’t buck.
“The rodeo sport is really no less safe than playing pee-wee football. When you look at it in that aspect, it’s not any more dangerous than any other social sport.
“[Mutton busting] is like riding a thick, billowy pillow with feet. As long as they don’t step on you, you’re safe.”
Tonya Davis said, with anything, there’s some nervousness that goes along with watching her 5-year-old daughter compete in rodeos. But it would be pretty tough to stop her at this point.
“We started her out obviously at a young age, so we know what her capability is,” Tonya Davis said. “We take every precaution, knowing what your capabilities are, before we take her to the next level.
“It’s nerve wracking watching her riding full blast on a pony or riding a sheep, but we take every precaution to make sure she’s safe. It’s just as nerve wracking as if we were watching her ride a bicycle. In fact, she doesn’t have as much experience riding a bicycle as she does a horse.
“As long as she loves it, we don’t want to deny her from doing it.”
Her mother said they hope to graduate from ponies some day and have a horse named Gus – Kenneth’s semi-retired steed he’s been riding since a child – picked out for her to ride. Gus, in his early days, already won state championships with Kenneth leading him.
But as much as Tonya and Kenneth Davis love the sport, it’s not something that’s pushed on young Jordan.
“We’ve talked about it, and we may be at a ballerina recital one weekend,” Tonya Davis said. “We never make her do it, but she loves it. She also does gymnastics, so she may want to do that more, one day. We will take her to the ends of the earth if we can do it and that’s what she wants to do.”
And when she’s not in the saddle or atop a wily sheep, Jordan Davis is a typical child who doesn’t meet a stranger and has quite the outgoing personality. She even sang the “National Anthem” to start a rodeo at the Wilson County Fairgrounds back in the summer.
“She’s just a little social butterfly,” Tonya Davis said. “I’m a firm believer there’s no better thing for a kid than a horse. It shows them responsibility. Rodeo is a family sport. We are always together when we’re at the shows.”