Jayden Octavio Villegas gives thumbs up in his mutton busting gear. Below, he hangs on to the sheep tightly to win the event.
GONZALES — Gonzales youth Jayden Octavio Villegas participated in this year’s California Rodeo Salinas and won the stick horse race and mutton busting events.
Villegas, 6, took part in the stick horse race on Thursday and tied with another participant. On Friday, he switched gears and was a contestant in the mutton busting event, where he earned second place.
Villegas, along with his mother Marisol and father Gerardo, returned to the Rodeo on Sunday for the finals, in which Villegas won the mutton busting event. This was his first time participating in either events.
“We heard him say that he was nervous,” Marisol said. “He plays sports like soccer and is a very active boy, but he never says ‘Oh, I’m nervous.’ When we were there, he says ‘I’m nervous.’”
According to Marisol, Villegas saw the mutton busting event last year and was asking about how the children ride the sheep. Gerardo found out information about the event and registered Villegas in the event.
At the California Rodeo Salinas, contestants for the mutton busting event are chosen by raffle and Villegas was selected.
“We have been looking for other fairs that do the mutton busting,” Marisol said. “We found out that Paso Robles does one, so hopefully we can make it out there.”
The Villegas family has been going to the rodeo for years, usually going on Wednesday for the Professional Bull Riding and on Friday.
“A lot of our family members were there, so I think that’s what encouraged him as well,” Marisol said. “Our friends were asking us when he was going to compete, and then family members showed up. It was a great experience and for ourselves as well.”
Villegas showed some concern over the amount of people in the crowd on Wednesday and asked his mother if the same number of people were going to be there for the mutton busting event. Marisol told her son to just worry about the sheep and not about the amount of people there watching.