Although Tucson no longer has a rodeo queen, Destiny Vaught carries on the tradition for Southeastern Arizona's Sonoita event. Her duties as queen include meeting with Sam Hughes Elementary School first-graders and teaching them about horses and rodeos. DEAN KNUTH / ARIZONA DAILY STAR

Seven-year-old Paloma Paz considers herself rodeo queen material - after all, she likes horses and wouldn't mind the cowgirl attire.

On Monday, Paloma and her classmates at Sam Hughes Elementary School, 700 N. Wilson Ave., got a lesson from 2009 Sonoita Rodeo Queen Destiny Vaught, 2009 Sonoita Rodeo Princess Missy Dipper and cowboy Ciriaco Vaught.

The students learned about roping, the anatomy of horses and proper care, which Destiny Vaught likened to taking care of a dog, "except a lot more work."

The visit from Vaught and her friends was part of the school's 72nd annual Chuck Wagon Round Up event, a school carnival scheduled for March 6.

Sam Hughes parent Susan Modisette organized the visit.

"Kids see horses at the parade, but they don't get to interact or learn about them," Destiny Vaught said. "By coming here, we can teach them about the Western way of life in hopes of preserving our Western heritage."

And the kids certainly interacted on Monday. When the rodeo queen took out horse hoof clippings, she was met with lots of "ewwws" but no shortage of hands reaching out to hold them.

Students also had the opportunity to pet a horse named Timer, although some first-graders were wary of getting close after Timer took a bathroom break right in front of them. "That's part of owning a horse," Destiny Vaught told the children.

Dorian Shay, 7, was no stranger to horses. The first-grader said he has ridden a horse before and thought it was exciting. "I probably will be a cowboy," Shay said. "I'm not sure."

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at 573-4175 or