GOSHEN — Working with horses has been a passion for Mia Miller since birth.

“She was born and the first words she said were, ‘I want a horse.’ ... and then about a year and a half later, she started talking,” her father, Dewey Miller, said.

Mia showed her passion for animals in front of the hometown crowd once again during the afternoon rodeo show at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair Friday.

“My horses are like family members. I don’t know what I would do without (her horse, Sandy’s Little Streaker) especially,” Mia said. “Every time we come here, we know everybody. It’s family. The more I do it, the more I get better at it. I want to be a professional rodeo athlete one day.”

Mia’s love for animals led her to join 4-H. She’s a 10-year 4-H member at the fair, having shown pigs and horses in the past.

The Goshen resident’s true passion is the rodeo, though. Specifically, Mia enjoys the barrel racing event. Riders are tasked with navigating their horse around three barrels as quickly as possible.

“It’s my favorite event. I did National Barrel Racing Association (NBRA),” Mia said. “Just as I started getting better at it and doing more, I wanted to be able to do more with it.”

Mia had a tough run Friday, incurring a five-second penalty for knocking down one of the barrels. Her final time was unofficially 20.57 seconds.

“Last year, I ended up second here and it was an amazing run that I had. So to not repeat that is very disappointing,” Mia said.

Her first event of the afternoon — breakaway roping — went well, though. The objective of the event is to lasso a runaway cow as quickly as possible. Mia was one of the few contests to successfully catch the cow, doing so in 3.7 seconds.

“I didn’t do breakaway roping last year and did well this year. So, it will all work out in the end,” Mia said.

Being able to perform in front of her friends and family is fun for Mia, but there’s also pressure to do well.

“It can be kind of intimidating because it is your hometown fair and everyone knows about you and they hear about it all year. If you don’t perform well, it’s like, ‘What are they going to think about me?’ But, I have a lot of support around here,” Mia said. “My friends came out, my family came out to see me.”

Along with it being her final high school competition, Mia received the honor to hold the United States’ flag while the National Anthem was playing.

“I’ve never done it before and I’ve wanted to do it for a long time,” Mia said. “It’s one of the coolest things you can do in rodeo. Definitely one of my favorite events.”

It’s been a successful high school rodeo career for Mia. She had the best average in breakaway roping at the Mid-State Rodeo Association event this year, won the year-end breakaway and barrel racing competitions at the Michigan High School Rodeo Association state tournament and was 17th nationally at the Little Britches national competition.

Driving around the country and competing in rodeo events has become a weekend tradition for the Miller family. Friday being her final competition as a high school student was almost a surreal feeling for Dewey.

“It’s bittersweet because this is our family. These are the people we hang out with every weekend, year-round. And, they’re good, good people. We get to meet people all from across the Midwest,” Dewey said. “We were in Wyoming last week for the national high school finals. Anywhere we go, we know people, and that’s really the special part. I’m really proud of her, but it’s going to be different now.”

Mia started doing breakaway roping recently to better prepare herself for college. She just finished taking classes at the Indiana Connections Academy, an online charter school. In a few weeks, she’ll be making the 13-hour drive to Magnolia, Arkansas, to start her collegiate life at Southern Arkansas University.

She plans on studying marketing and will be on the rodeo team. Her dream is do rodeo professionally.

“I’ve been doing (International Professional Rodeo Association) stuff for a while, and to see everyone that does this as a career — they just get to have fun and do what they love as a profession, that seems like a dream to me,” Mia said.

Austin Hough can be reached at austin.hough@goshennews.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 325. Follow Austin on Twitter @AustinHoughTGN

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