Bigfork’s Lexi Murer is just 14 years old, but she will already be checking off one of her biggest goals when she competes in the National Finals Rodeo’s Junior World Finals in Las Vegas from Dec. 5-14.
Lexi and her horse, Shootin’ Diamonds – whose barn name is Moji – will participate in pole bending. The event requires the rider to weave the horse between six poles arranged in a line, then quickly turn around and weave in the opposite direction, with two sprints on either side of the line of poles.
Lexi and Moji finished 21st in the Junior High Division of the National High School Rodeo this past June in South Dakota. She missed the finals by one spot – agonizingly, it came down to the last rider of the event – but Lexi was still plenty happy with her performance.
“It was a super fun experience,” she said.
On the way home from South Dakota, Lexi qualified for the Junior World Finals at a rodeo in Silesia on July 2.
“She set this goal a couple of years ago,” said Lexi’s mother Debbie Murer. “Her making it is enormous.”
While Lexi prefers barrel racing, Moji “loves to pole bend,” according to Debbie. She said sometimes they have “a bit of fight” in the arena.
But it hardly matters when there is “such a connection between the rider and the horse,” Debbie said. She thinks Lexi and Moji have “really clicked.”
Lexi started in rodeo when she was 7, competing in barrel racing with a horse named Cowboy Town. She acquired Moji two years ago when the horse was 10.
“He is super smooth,” Lexi said, but added that he is “a little quirky” and can get “much more excited than a lot of other horses.”
Not many things bother him, Lexi said, but for some reason he is “not a huge fan” of tractors.
“He’s very sweet, he loves everyone,” Lexi added.
Debbie said Lexi has “always been around horses.” She got her first pony when she was 4 years old.
“We’re just kind of a horse family,” Debbie said, adding that Lexi loves her horses “with all of her heart.”
The family has an outdoor arena at their home near Bigfork, but the short season forces Lexi to ride indoors for much of the year. She does her indoor training at River Bend Ranch outside of Ferndale.
Despite the ranch being for sale, the owners “have been extremely generous” to let Lexi continue training, Debbie said.
Training happens after Lexi comes home from Flathead High School, where she is a freshman. She decided to attend Flathead for its revered Vo-Ag program.
Debbie said people are surprised to see Lexi riding a full-sized quarter horse on account of Lexi’s size.
“She’s not 5 foot and probably never will be,” Debbie said.
That has not stopped Lexi from earning a trip to Las Vegas, where she will turn 15 during the event. But Lexi is more concerned about putting in a good performance than celebrating a birthday.
“I just want it to be our best runs … clean and fast,” Lexi said.
And hopefully the Junior World Finals are a stepping stone for Lexi’s ultimate goal: a spot in the National Finals Rodeo after she turns 18.
Debbie has no doubts her daughter can accomplish that goal someday.
“We are extremely proud,” Debbie said. “She’s very goal-oriented and very driven.” »