KALISPELL, Mont. (BVM) — To say that Ella Lund cut her teeth while riding a horse would be an understatement. At the tender age of 1 month, Lund was cocooned in a baby carrier at her mother Jessie’s chest while they ambled around their ranch on horseback. By the time Ella was 2 years old, Jessie would sit her up in the saddle and let her just enjoy being there.
“Ella would sit there all day if we let her,” Jessie said. “She loved being on the horse.”
By the time Lund was 5, she had her own horse: a Welsh Paint Cob named Bella. Donning a pink cowboy hat, Lund spent all of her free time riding, feeding, brushing and caring for Bella.
At 10, Lund saw Madison McDonald, a professional trick rider, perform at the Last Chance Stampede Rodeo in Helena, Mont. She was inspired to try performing gymnastics on horseback, an event known as equestrian vaulting. Although Jessie was appropriately cautious about this new endeavor, she knew that “if Ella wanted to do something, she would do it.”
Relying on YouTube videos for instructions and demonstrations, Lund taught herself the basics of trick riding. Jessie and Ella would watch a clip, and then Ella would try it herself. Ella’s passionate drive to learn, and her attitude of excellence, pushed her to perfect every move. One of her first tricks was the hippodrome, where she stood up on the back of her walking horse. As Ella progressed in skill, she could still perform her tricks when Bella picked up the pace and cantered around the arena.
Lund’s first appearance as a trick rider was at a rodeo pageant in 2018.
“We had already done horsemanship work,” Lund recalled. “Bella was getting ready and settling down. I was nervous about falling, but we did my first lap of waving to the crowd, making sure nothing was going to spook my horse. I settled down and knew what I had to do.
“I was doing most of my tricks at a trot. I thought, ‘Let’s take this slow.’ By the end of the routine, during the fender drag, Bella got excited and was going quite fast. I wasn’t paying attention to the crowd and the applause. I was focused on my routine.”
“I’m excited for her and her bravery,” Lund’s father, Mike, added. “She has it pretty well covered.”
Lund even performed at the Brash Rodeo in Columbia Falls, Mont., during the halftime show. To get Bella in a good space, Lund galloped around the arena holding two ribbons on poles. She then performed a flag stand, fender and hippodrome.
“When I’m standing on my horse, it feels like I’m flying!” Lund stated. “Still, my mom says the hippodrome is the scariest trick for her to watch.”
In 2018, Jessie took her daughter to a rodeo – just for fun.
Not surprisingly, Ella was motivated to give pageantry a whirl. She participated in several pageants, which judge horsemanship, rodeo knowledge, modeling and oral presentations.
In 2019, at the Northwest Montana Fair and Rodeo in Kalispell, Mont., Lund was crowned Northwest Montana Pro Rodeo Little Miss and joined the Rodeo Royalty family. As Little Miss, Lund acts as a rodeo ambassador, educating people on rodeo events, horses and rodeo history.
“My favorite part of being Little Miss,” Lund said, “is meeting new friends and learning to be a good public speaker.”
Lund always strives to try new things – “just for fun.” On June 18, 2020, Lund took to the arena, this time on a 500-pound steer! The 4-foot-tall, 80-pound Lund entered the chute decked out in a protective vest, helmet and leather gloves, and mounted her steer. At first, she was nervous, but she relaxed when she assured herself that nothing was going to happen.
“Just hold on tight. Hold on tight!” she told herself.
The brave little equestrian didn’t stay seated for the required eight seconds, but that didn’t diminish her smile or determination.
“When I started steer riding, my goal was to try something new – not necessarily to win,” she explained. “I had to prove to myself that I can do anything!”
Lund wants to continue trick riding, learning all she can and eventually go pro. She wants to perfect her technique and plans to seek the help of her role model, Madison McDonald.
Most importantly, Lund wants to continue because “it’s just fun, and I love it!”