Kneeling in the stables at the National Western Complex near a white horse with a red hand print stamped on its hindquarter, a 9-year-old boy dressed as a Native American focuses on twirling a whip.
Nicolas Diaz was preparing for his first solo performance in his father's Mexican Rodeo Extravaganza, held this year for the 19th time at the 107th National Western Stock Show.
"It's called the Indian Act," Nicolas said. He wore a long, black, braided wig with a leather headband and a feather sticking out the back, and had three red and white stripes painted on each of his cheeks. "This is the first time we've ever done anything like this."
Nicolas lives in New Braunfels, Texas, with his mother Staci Diaz and his father Gerardo "Jerry" Diaz, the creator, star act and producer of the Mexican heritage rodeo.
In previous shows, Nicolas has ridden along with his father in the Charro Act, where men dress as 17th century Mexican horse soldiers with giant sombreros and do rope tricks and stunts while standing or riding on their horses.
This year, the boy is all alone in the ring.
"I'm really excited," Nicolas enthused. "The first part is a specialty act where the horse does tricks like sitting and laying down, and then there's a liberty act where the horse is loose, acting wild, and I capture him."
"Catrin" is Nicolas' fully grown Appaloosa that he has been riding "since he was in his mother's belly," Jerry Diaz said.
To prepare for the routine, Nicolas and Catrin practiced for about two months under the supervision of his parents, he said.
Nicolas' debut performance at the stock show is just the beginning of a whole season of rodeos the family will be in this year. As he gets older, Nicolas' acts will be more challenging, and he will eventually take the reins on the whole show.
"My dad wants me to do it after him," Diaz said. He said he fully intends to keep the family tradition alive.
"Every year we change things up," said Stacy Diaz. "This year is about showcasing (Nicolas') presentation. He'll always be involved as long as he's in my hands."
The Mexican Rodeo Extravaganza does have some staples. The event features bareback riders, Westernaires, bull riding, folklorico dancers in puffy pastel dresses, and Escaramuza, where women from the Las Amazonas de Colorado team ride side saddle through the arena.
"The show is about a celebration of both American and Mexican cultures," National Western spokesperson Susan Kanode said. "It's about how Mexican heritage relates to Western rodeo."