Cyiah Avila: a Seminole Rider Amongst Cowboys

Mikah Combs, Photographer

Davie, Florida, “Cowboy Town,” has had the tradition of rodeo since the early 1920s and it is the main tourist attraction. But, if you look closely, tucked among the straw cowboy hats, leather cowboy boots and prized belt buckles, you will find 16-year-old Cyiah Avila, a rodeo rider and member of the local Seminole tribe. She is one of the three tribe members that participate in all of the rodeo organizations.

When she was four-years-old, Avila started taking riding lesson at SpunGold Equestrian Center. Her instructor suggested she try barrel racing at Davie Rodeo Association’s Wednesday night Jackpot. Since then, she’s been competing in seven different rodeo series including: Davie Rodeo Association’s Jackpot (DRA), Indian National Finals Rodeo (INFR), Eastern Indian Rodeo Association (EIRA), All Florida Junior High School Rodeo Association (AFJRA), Cinch, High School Rodeo (HSR), and Florida Little Britches Rodeo Association (FLBRA). Five of these organizations are state wide, while the other two are national. Many of the riders from Avila’s tribe only ride when the EIRA season is here, but Avila never takes a break.

Avila lives on the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation, on a 4 1/2 acre plot of land her family owns. There, she trains her horses five or six times a week, including once a week with a professional horse trainer. She has three finished barrel racers: Shiner, named for his looks, and Nick and Toots, whose names just fit them. She’s also training two from scratch herself: Warpony, named for her fierceness, and Baby Otter, named after being born during a hurricane’s massive flooding.