By Jack Nowlin
The most impressive rider at this year’s Junior National Finals Rodeo presented by Yeti isn’t competing in any events. Instead, Bella DaCosta is showing off her horse riding skills during the Junior Roughstock Association bareback bronc and saddle bronc competitions.
The 17-year-old trick rider from Canada performs during breaks in the action aboard her horses Boone and Gus.
“I’ve been trick riding since I was 4 years old,” DaCosta said. “I saw Niki Flundra perform at the Canadian National Finals and I fell in love with it.”
Thursday, wearing a sparkling red shirt and red pants, DaCosta sat patiently on Boone, who also was resplendent in red – from his face covering to the glitter on his rear.
After the pickup men cleared the final horse from the arena, the large gates swung open and DaCosta and Boone rode in. With Boone galloping at full speed around the Wrangler Rodeo Arena, DaCosta deftly stepped off on the left side before vaulting back into the saddle facing backwards and then turning forward. She repeated the trick as she rode in front of the stands before finishing in front of the bucking chutes.
DaCosta then rode Boone back to the front of the stands and raised her arms to excite the crowd.
“Trick riding is my passion,” DaCosta said with a smile. “I knew it was what I wanted to do when I was younger because normal riding was just too normal for me. I have a need for speed. I love it.”
Not surprisingly, DaCosta has also developed an even deeper love for her horses. That’s especially true when it comes to Boone, a 20-year-old black horse DaCosta has been riding for six years.
“He’s actually a meat auction pony that we got for $900,” she said. “I took him across Canada in two months and he’s taken me everywhere.”
The trip to Vegas, however, will be Boone’s last show.
“He’s going to be retired and hopefully be a little kids’ horse,” DaCosta said.
Gus, a large gray horse DaCosta has been “seasoning” for the past two years, is ready to fill Boone’s big shoes. DaCosta also has another horse with her in Vegas and she’ll be adding Dixie to the rotation this winter.
When she returns to Stony Plain, a small town outside of Edmonton, DaCosta will compete in high school rodeo – roping, goat tying, barrel racing and pole bending are all on the list – while continuing to perfect her trick riding skills. After all, it’s what she’s been doing most of her young life, even if her family was somewhat reticent at the beginning.
“My initial thoughts were no,” Chrissy DaCosta, Bella’s mother, said. “I was really scared. But she really, really wanted to do it and she just had a natural ability. It took a couple years but she was doing really well and I watched her confidence skyrocket.
“It was her passion and you can’t hold back a kid with passion.”
Bella DaCosta has been pursuing her passion for 13 years. She has won championships in Canada and has qualified for The American twice. She also performed in Vegas when she was younger, but getting a chance to share her passion with the appreciative fans at the Junior World Finals is on another level.
“It’s like the Big Apple to me,” she said. “I’ve dreamed of this since I was a little girl. This is where I wanted to be, no matter if it was trick riding, barrel racing, anything for rodeo. I just knew I wanted to be here and it’s a dream come true to be here.”