One could argue that generations of equine-savvy kids, teens and adults in Pueblo can attribute their passions to a rich local DNA of horsemanship in the community.
Not only has rodeo and equine events and exhibitions marked the Colorado State Fair for nearly 150 years, but numerous stables, equestrian centers and horseman's associations dot the landscape in Pueblo.
From that rich horse culture in Pueblo, two world championship-caliber equestrians have emerged. Natalia DeVencenty, 19, and Breanne Faris, 16, have quietly put Pueblo on the map both nationally and internationally with their achievements in horsemanship.
DeVencenty has claimed a world championship, winning the 2017 American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) youth world horsemanship championship with her horse, Chex the Choice, when she was 16 years old. DeVencenty is now looking to establish herself as an amateur world champion and has recently placed bronze in August at the National Snaffle Bit Association World Championship Show in amateur horsemanship.
Faris was named Reserve World Champion (or second place) in the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) last February, and continues to chase her dream of a world title, as well.
DeVencenty found her niche competing in "western riding," in which horses are led along precise patterns, walks, trots, and more. The rider is wearing what DeVencenty calls "clothes with all the blings," to show the horse's abilities.
Faris prefers "reined cow horse" competitions, in which the rider and his or her horse are asked to work a single live cow in an arena, performing specific maneuvers along the way.
Though quite different, both have been building up to this high level of competitive horsemanship since they were kids, and found their passions at a young age.
DeVencenty got her start in horsemanship when she got her first pony when she was five years old from her parents, Jamie and Rocky DeVencenty, who operate Flower Aviation near the Pueblo Airport.
"My mom taught me the basics," DeVencenty said, "and she was big into barrel racing. But I got really interested in western horsemanship when I was little."
Similarly, Faris' parents introduced her to a type of riding called "western pleasure," in which riders compete by showing their horses at a more relaxed and collected gait. But the reined cow horse competition captured her imagination.
"My mom, Jody, had an old western pleasure horse, but that got a little boring," Faris joked. "But reined cow horse looked fun, and I gave it a try and I loved it. It's a huge adrenaline rush."
Both took it to the next level as they reached their teens.
DeVencenty ascended quickly in youth competitions, not only winning AQHA horsemanship world title in 2017, but also became the 2019 Reserve World Champion as an amateur (for riders between the ages of 18-49), in 2019. In the latter, she was riding her new horse, named Moonlite Madnez, or "Moonie."
"I love it so much," DeVencenty said, "and it's become of the bond I have with my horses. I've been doing this since I was 5 years old, focusing on competing, and at the end of the day, it's all about being in love with your horse."
Faris, in addition to her reserve world championship in reined cow horse, placed third in reined cow horse fence work division at the AQHA Youth Worlds in August.
Faris said she's driven to eventually become a world champion.
"Main main goal is to win," Faris said. "When I took reserve, it was close, and I'm really always striving for that."
Out of high school, DeVencenty was recruited for the equestrian team at Texas Christian University (TCU), but she felt that college equestrian wasn't for her. She instead transitioned to amateur competition.
Faris has set the goal of joining that TCU team on a college scholarship.
Eventually, both have the same ultimate goals - to stay active in the equine field and sell horses.