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 seven-year-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.

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.

 – Photos and Story by Shawna Graves