Stone Elton of Rush Valley has won some trophies, belt buckles and some hearts. He rides a 4-foot-tall pony named Taxi and he just turned 6 years old.
The son of Kelly and Jodi Elton, this precocious cowboy is a mutton buster, a goat tier, a calf roper and, when he rides or ropes well, he has some fancy dance moves. The Bit and Spur Rodeo crowd at Deseret Peak Complex on the Fourth of July got a sampling of both his mutton bustin’ skills and his “happy dance.”
“You just ride in and do what you have to do — barrels, poles, goat-tying,” Stone Elton said after performing some goat-tying at his home practice arena on Wednesday.
He came away from the Bit and Spur Rodeo with a Reserve Champion award for his ride, a 2nd place belt buckle and, it would appear, a local fan base for his twisting hips.
When asked where he learned his dance moves, he said, “Probably not my mom, but my dad.”
Kelly Elton thinks his son picked up the dance moves from watching WWE wrestling on TV with his brothers. But, the dad also said he has been told his son got some moves from him.
“He did his dance on his own,” Kelly Elton said. Since Stone Elton had left his rope in the arena at a previous rodeo competition, his dad ran into the stadium to remind him not to forget it this time.
“I was trying to tell him to get his rope,” Kelly Elton said. “He asked me when he should dance and I said ‘right now.’”
His son wasted no time, raised his hands and began swaying his hips. Then he turned to each section of the arena and did the same dance.
At the Rush Valley Rodeo last weekend, the little cowboy worked his magic again. He placed second and won another $70 for mutton bustin,’ which he says he is saving to buy his next horse.
Stone Elton will attend first-grade this fall at Tooele’s Scholar Academy. While most first-graders are learning to sort shapes and colors, he has already mastered the cowboy version of sorting — moving 300 head of calves and cows for branding and breeding. He rides his pint-sized pony, who is more than 20 years old, to herd and sort cows. And he does it well.
“He’s good at herding and sorting,” said Kelly Elton. “Whenever we have to move the cows from one pasture to another, he’ll actually ride the pony and help me herd the cows. He’s pretty proficient.”
So where did Stone Elton’s rodeo talent come from and when did it start?
“His first rodeo, I think, he was like 2,” said Jodi Elton. “His dad just led him through the barrels. He’s been roping the dummy since he was probably 1. He followed us around with ropes, roping our feet.”
Not only does the family have a practice arena, but Stone Elton has his own calf roping and goat tying dummies. He begs his mom frequently to saddle up and practice his favorite hobby — rodeoing.
Genetics may also play a role in the young cowboy’s love for rodeo. His dad and an uncle both participated in rodeo. Both of his parents grew up in Tooele and graduated from Tooele High School.
Kelly Elton participated in high school rodeo, continued at Salt Lake Community College and moved to the Intermountain West amateur circuit. Today, he competes in team roping and calf roping. He placed third in team roping with partner, Chase Sanders, at the Rush Valley Rodeo last weekend.
“He caught a leg and his team roper caught the head,” Stone Elton said about his dad.
When it comes to technique, the little cowboy’s trainer is his dad. Kelly Elton explained he gives his son different advice for each event.
“I tell him to stick his chest out, keep his chin up and to squeeze with his feet when he’s riding mutton bustin,’” he said. “When we goat tie, we mainly practice our tying — just no mistakes, it doesn’t matter how fast you do it, as long as there’s no mistakes.”
But according to Jodi Elton, some of the magic lies in her son’s connection to his horse. She said her son controls Taxi better than his brothers, who have both quit rodeo after competing with him.
“Usually ponies are just jerks, but he’s always been great,” Jodi said of her son’s abilities with Taxi. When Stone Elton was asked what kind of breed Taxi is, he said, “I think it’s a Chocolate. I think it’s a Chocolate mixed with something else.”
Jodi Elton said her son is starting to grow out of Taxi and they are starting to look for something bigger. But Kelly Elton said his son competes well riding his horse against kids who are riding full-size horses.
On his birthday, Stone Elton got a new saddle blanket for Taxi. He loves it because it’s his favorite color — blue.
“That’s all he wanted for his birthday was stuff for the horse,” Jodi Elton said, “He got a saddle blanket and boots for the horse and his dad made him a halter and then he got a mutton bustin’ helmet.”
For his birthday Stone said he got to go swimming and had a rodeo birthday party.
“We did goat run and pull,” he said. “We did a feeding contest, stick horse barrels and pin the tail on the donkey.”
Stone Elton’s brothers, McRay, 11, and Quaid, 9, love the excitement their little sibling creates when he rides. They ran down to congratulate him after his award-winning, mutton bustin’ ride at the Bit and Spur Rodeo. McRay Elton said he just hugged his brother after his dance and Quaid Elton said he told his brother, “Good job.”
When asked what he sees in Stone Elton’s future, Kelly Elton said, “My heart wants him to be a cowboy. But, I hope whatever he decides to do, he’s successful, puts his heart and soul into it and all his effort. It’ll pay off for him. A rodeo cowboy is my hope for him. Then, I hope there’s a successful ranch for him to be a part of when he decides he’s done rodeoing.”
Whatever it is, Kelly Elton said his son has a lot of love and support from family. Stone is routinely spoiled by his three grandparents and great-grandmother, who all live in Tooele, to the point that they feed him ice cream for breakfast when they go out to eat at Jim’s Restaurant.
“He has the best support group there is,” Kelly Elton said. “His mom, she’s number one and then his brothers, they’re right there pushing for him.”