Athlete trades sandy beaches for rodeo arena

Taylor-Ann DeCosta spends her days riding and caring for her horse, Monster who she flew to Texas from Hawaii. (Staff Photo | Ian Griffin)

By Ian Griffin

Staff Writer

Long gone are the picturesque days on the lovely sandy beaches of Hawaii with the waves crossing her toes in the sand. Instead, the days are long in East Texas around the rodeo arena. Taylor-Ann DeCosta, a rodeo student at NTCC, moved from Kaneohe, Hawaii, and found herself in Texas.

It’s a “big change from a rock surrounded by water to move here in Texas,” DeCosta said. “I felt Texas is a good place to be and would make me better. Of the places I have been, Texas is the best.”

DeCosta felt that she would need to leave the “Paradise of the Pacific” to improve in the rodeo arena. This move was huge. Moving across the ocean would consist of flying two of her horses from Hawaii to California. So DeCosta flew Monster, who is now twelve years old, and Scooter, nineteen years old, to be with her. She also has a horse named Abilene that she purchased while on the mainland, who is ten years old. DeCosta paid $35,000 for Monster.

“The rodeo community there is small. I needed to move away to grow. I miss my family. If it hadn’t been for my horses, it would be a little harder.” She hesitates for a moment and then adds with her competitive spirit. “If you want to get good, Texas is the place to be; there is stiff competition here.” DeCosta smiles and gently rubs her hand across Monster’s back.

Initially, DeCosta left Hawaii for Miles City, Montana, where she attended college. The temperature was just a bit too cold for DeCosta, so she would migrate for warmer weather in California and attend school there at West Hills College. 

West Hills College is where she met Justin Hampton, the current NTCC Head Rodeo Coach. He ran the program in California, and then he moved to the program at the NTCC. Hampton said, “he wanted to bring a few prominent members from his program in California to establish a good foundation at NTCC.” DeCosta was one that he recruited from his program in California for that foundation at NTCC. She would uproot again and move to Texas. 

“She is a hard worker, performance-wise, top notch and she had great success out there,” Hampton said. “With the epidemic shutting a lot of things down in California, a lot of riders started relocating. She was interested and I knew I had a good one to build on here, to help build my program up with.” 

DeCosta participates in three rodeo events which includes: team roping, barrel racing, and breakaway roping. For team roping and break away events DeCosta likes using her horse, Monster. Her horse, Monster, DeCosta likes to use for the team rope and break away events. 

For the barrel racing event DeCosta uses a horse named Rip. DeCosta said, team roping is her favorite event and while the breakaway roping is the most challenging event because “everything has to be perfect.” 

Rodeo can be physically demanding on the horse and the rider. DeCosta said that the commitment does not end after the event. 

“Unlike any other sport, rodeo is a constant commitment,” DeCosta said. “When you finish a ball game, you put the ball down, get cleaned up, and go home.”

For DeCosta once an event ends, the rest of the day just begins. 

 “When the rodeo event is over, you still have to tend to the horse, prepare them to travel, take them home, and tend to them,” said DeCosta. “It is not over with when the ballgame is over. That is not a knock on other sports, it’s just the rodeo life.”

Oddly enough, she is the only member of her family that got involved with horses, “the rest of my family were into Motocross, dirt bikes,” said DeCosta. 

“I was into My Little Pony, and at age four and five started taking horse lessons, ‘’ DeCosta said. “During this time, I was in hula training. I quit hula, and then it was all about the horses.”

In a sport like rodeo there are bound to be a few mishaps. “Just yesterday, Trapper, a young horse, threw me to the ground,” DeCosta said. “It wasn’t funny when it happened but looking back it was.” 

DeCosta smiles as she is standing next to Monster while explaining the mishap. Looking closely at Monster you can see gray hair growing through his reddish-brown hair. DeCosta said, “that is not actually gray, but it’s called chroming.” As she runs her hand across his back with affection, her big belt buckle can be seen. DeCosta explains, “I won the Mike Giannini Memorial Buckle in California. I won $2000 at that event.” 

Looking at DeCosta as she brushes Monster, the passion in her heart for her horses and her craft is obvious. DeCosta keeps a constant smile as she brushes Monster. That smile never fades away. 

The beaches of the Pacific are missing but long rodeo days are ahead for DeCosta in Texas.