Little boy tall in the saddle

RAYMONDVILLE — A small boy in a plaid shirt held tightly to the saddle, the white horse “Cricket” beneath him nodding slowly with each step.

Lucas Riojas, 3, of Beeville, was a big man in small shoes Saturday at the Willacy County Youth Rodeo. Like many small children in the rodeo, he wasn’t racing through the cloverleaf barrel race. His parents, Carlos and Leticia Riojas, were gently leading him through the course around the barrels.

Many parents were leading the small children on their horses through the events to orient them toward horses and rodeos. At first glance, Lucas and his parents appeared to have this same purpose in mind. But Lucas was walking a different path from the others.

“My son had a stroke in utero,” Leticia said when they returned from the arena. She had a ready smile as she spoke about the challenges and the progress her son has made.

“Riding horses is a good way to work on balance for him,” she said. She gestured toward Lucas, brimming with boundless energy, struggling to walk, and fearless as people and horses towered over him. His non-stop talking revealed an above average intelligence and a passion for life.

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