Student Spotlight: Delaney Helgans

How much do you really know about Ranching? We sat down with Delaney Helgans to demystify some elements of the cattle-roping, horse-mounted lifestyle


Alexis Herrington, Features Editor

Delaney is a Junior at Boulder High School who has a love for horse riding, roping, and steer selling. Delaney shows her horse, Baxter, at 4-H shows. 4-H is a U.S.-based network of youth organizations whose mission is “engaging youth to reach their fullest potential while advancing the field of youth development.” Their horse curriculum provides an “interactive, hands-on curriculum for youth to explore raising and showing horses while developing life skills.” Delaney and her horse were qualified to go to the state fair this year. The duo competes in all events, but their favorite is Ranch. Ranch involves riding in a pattern made up of circles, spins, stops, lead changes and roll backs. Additionally, Delaney competes in steer roping. Roping is a rodeo event that features a steer and three mounted riders, and involves roping a steer (which is another word for cattle) while on horseback. There are 11 teams, so it is highly competitive. Delaney recently won a roping competition in Carbondale, CO.

Delaney perched atop her horse, Baxter. She gracefully swings the large lasso about her head, practicing for roping steers. Photo via Delaney Helgans.

Delaney lives in downtown Boulder, but her horse’s stable is out on South Boulder Road. She tries to ride her horse every day, but it’s hard for her to balance all of her activities. During the fall and spring, she participates in set construction for the Boulder High Theater Department – meaning that weekends are the best time for her to ride. 

Delaney started showing her steers three to four years ago, but she only started roping two years ago, making her fairly new to the sport. Delaney explains that roping is a complex activity. She says you need to keep your loops big, and swing them in various different ways. It needs to be “slow and controlled, so you don’t stress out the horse”. It’s also interesting because a herd has both mother and baby cows. Delaney says that “it’s a cool sport because it depends on the cow”. She credits her horse, Baxter, for helping her succeed. Baxter “used to be a team roper, so he knows cows and knows how to be roped off of.” She insists that “he practically does half the work”. She says there is a lot of pressure on the horse because they need to learn patterns. When she first started riding, Delaney was responsible for training her horse. She and Baxter have been at county fairs, and have won second place twice. They excel in Ranch, which is “better

Delaney roping a steer at a recent fair. Photo via Delaney Helgans.

for Baxter mentally, because he knows what he’s doing,” says Delaney. Delaney appreciates Baxter, because she says it’s “nice to have an animal that’s competing with you”. She explains that riders have a bond with their horses.

Showing steers is a large part of Delaney’s passion. Last year, she sold her cow at the county fair. However, she isn’t planning on selling through the county fair this year, because she doesn’t think she would be getting a fair share for her horse. Up in Larimer County, she would be getting $24,000 per steer, whereas in Boulder she would only get $6,000. Delaney is an expert in steer raising and showing. She explains that for a show steer, “you need (to show) the biggest and meatiest steer.” What makes a valuable cow is how it moves as well the quality of its meat. Delaney’s cow had a bit of a curve in his back, but he still won his class and went on to the grand drive. Delaney sells a new cow each year. When selling a cow, you usually make $2,200 at the grand drive and another $400 in add-ons. 

Delaney was courteous enough to explain how to spot a good steer. She says it’s important to look at their confirmation (skeletal and muscle structures), because all cows grow differently. Anyway, she’s not worried because “(her) cow’s guy has been doing this forever”.

When asked if Delaney intends to continue her hobby of horse riding after highschool, she responded “I hope so. I’ve been looking at CSU because they have a ranch horse team”. This is a great option for Delaney because she would be able to bring her horse with her when she goes to college. Delaney wants to be an engineer, which is a major that is often offered in schools located in rural areas, which is perfect for her, considering her passion.