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One More Chance

By: Samantha Smith

This year has proved to be my hardest year yet competing in college rodeo. Throughout my years of school, I have been fairly successful in rodeo, but this year has been different.

As a freshman, things seemed to come extremely easy for me. At my very first college rodeo I made the short round of competition which is something many people never get to experience. I then went on to win a college rodeo that year and compete in several other short rounds.

Fast-forward to sophomore year, I again made the short round at the first rodeo and started a bit of a streak, qualifying to the following two rodeos as well. When asked, I usually give my older sister, Taylor, a lot of credit for those good runs – thanks to her yelling in the stands and telling me what to do as if I could actually hear her.

Now, this year, junior year, is another story. Junior year has been a struggle to say the least. At the first rodeo, one I have consistently done good at, I didn’t just knock, but I knocked and flipped over the first barrel, something no barrel racer ever wants to do. This put me at an off start to the year, unsure of how to handle the loss at our hometown college rodeo. Next weekend, Alpine, TX, a rodeo I had won third at the year prior, horse and rider miscommunication causing another knocked barrel and another weekend with no short round. Vernon, TX college rodeo, another no-good run… are you seeing the pattern yet?

After the fall semester my parents finally convinced me it was time to get on a different horse as things obviously hadn’t been working with the one I was on at the time. To be truthful, things hadn’t been working for awhile, but I was too stubborn to admit it and wanted to prove that I could fix the problems all on my own. I was wrong.

December was a good month for me, I bought my new horse, Miracle Tash a.k.a. “Deana,” and got to fly home to Canada for Christmas. After New Years, I returned to the U.S., but only for three days before we picked up and went on a family vacation to Costa Rica that my mom had earned through her multi-level marketing company. Though I was happy to be on vacation, I couldn’t wait to get back and get a feel for my new horse.

Well, now it’s April and I’m still working on that whole “getting a feel” thing. People don’t understand that rodeo isn’t as easy as it may seem. In any other sport the game is always the same, you can switch fields, courts, turfs, you name it, but the idea stays the same. In rodeo, a horse switch after six years is like changing sports completely. This change is taking me time to adjust to, in fact, I had to send my other horse home to Canada to allow myself to completely focus on this one and getting our timing. Did I wish I had my old horse at the rodeo we won freshman year by four tenths? Of course I do, but the only way to get better is to make sacrifices and make changes in order to succeed.

The last college rodeo of the year is approaching fast and I am yet to make a short round. That one hurt to even type. To say I am disappointed would be an understatement, but I am not writing myself off quite yet. As I write this, I am sitting in my farrier’s barn doing homework while I get new shoes put on my horse’s feet. Though to some, this wouldn’t seem like a big deal, I’m seeing it as a fresh set of shoes for a fresh set of wins. Tartleton University hosts the last college rodeo of the year, and some say it’s even the best rodeo of the year, featuring smoke, fireworks, and added money which always draws in more entries. At this point, I’m not sure anyone sees me as tough competition, but what they don’t know is that I’m coming for them. This time, I’ve got a vengeance, I refuse to go a year without a short round, and I will do whatever it takes to make sure I’m in that top ten come Saturday afternoon.

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“So do you ride bulls?” Struggles of a Rodeo Athlete

By: Samantha Smith

People always ask me, “What it’s like to college rodeo? How do you prepare? Does the school supply your horses or do you have your own? Is rodeo expensive?”

Truth is, though it is the most decorated sports team at Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU), not many people even know we have a rodeo team. Because of this, I’ve taken it upon myself to help educate those who honestly have no idea (shoutout to the kid that didn’t believe I was a cowgirl because I, “didn’t look the part,” since I didn’t wear boots and spurs to class).

Because I’m feeling rather adventurous, we are going to play a little bit of true or false today! Common cowgirl/boy stereotypes debunked.

1. “All rodeo people listen to country music”

False. Despite popular belief, not all cowgirls and cowboys listen to country music 24/7. In fact, I’m not sure when the last time was that I hopped in someone’s pickup to go to a rodeo and they had a country radio station playing. If I had to take a guess, the most common music played heading from one rodeo to the next amongst my group of friends would have to be pop, followed by hip-hop/R&B. While trying to find some research on this topic, I came across a blog by Rodeo Paige posted on Kimes Ranch’s website. Click on this link to read her opinion on this topic. Personally, I have a large variety of XM radio channels I listen to, ranging from 80’s on 8 to “The Heat.”

2. “The school provides horses for each rodeo team member” 

False again. Of all the questions I receive about college rodeo, I think this one may be the most common. To put it quite simply, no, the school does not buy us horses, nor does the school pay to feed the horses we have. Rodeo is by no means a cheap sport to get involved with. Plus, rodeo athletes have to not only take care of themselves, but also their four-legged members as well. This takes not only time, but money too which can often mean we are relying on a paycheck at the rodeo to pay for expenses the next week. Most of us rodeo team members rode the same horses we ride now in high school, and coaches often will recruit people based on the horses they ride, or what we like to refer to as “horsepower.”

3. “Rodeo kids always wear their belt buckles and cowboy boots to class” 

False. This one can get a little bit tricky depending on who you talk to. Yes, there are some rodeo kids who constantly wear their boots, spurs, buckles, hats, starched jeans and shirts. But there are also plenty of us who do not. Because the statement uses the word “always,” this one will be marked down as a misconception with the others for now. At ENMU, there are actually a lot of kids who fall under this stereotype without even being rodeo competitors, it’s just the norm around here to look “punchy” I guess. Personally, and I think every girl on the rodeo team will agree with this as well as several of the boys, I never wear my “rodeo attire” to class. There are a couple of boys on the team however that do wear all of the above to class AND haul their horse trailers into town to make sure everyone knows they’re cowboys (I’m talking about you Dustyn and Bryce). Moral of the story, just because I don’t spur my chair down for 90 points in class doesn’t mean I’m not a competitor in the rodeo arena.

4. “Rodeo kids are all AG Business majors” 

False again! I think I’m starting to sense a trend here, no? Just like any other sports team, not all of our members are earning the same degree. Another fun fact, rodeo is unique because it doesn’t require us athletes to practice as a team. Each individual competes on their own, with the exception of team roping, and at the end of the weekend individual points are totaled, resulting in the team points. Because we don’t have to practice together, we also have several students who are all online with their studies. Tawny Barry is one of our best women’s team competitors and studies business online, meaning she can live wherever she pleases but still compete for and earn a degree from ENMU. Many rodeo kids do decide to study agriculture because it allows them to learn more about what we already do, however many of us choose degrees in other areas.

5. “Cowgirls/boys aren’t real athletes” OR “Rodeo isn’t a sport”

False, false, false. One of my biggest pet peeves has always been the downplay of rodeo as a sport. Just like many other athletes at this school, we put in our time and work hard to succeed in the rodeo arena. When other sports try to knock us down, it is disheartening and simply put, rude. According to all three definitions of a sport given by topendsports.com, rodeo does fall under that category. As for those who think we aren’t athletes, try flanking a calf and tying him down. You can do that? Great, now jump on someone’s barrel racing horse and see if you can make it around all three barrels in record time. Think you can do that too? Time to hit the rough stock end of the arena and jump on a bull because surely that doesn’t require any athleticism at all. If this mini rant wasn’t enough for you, leave a comment and we can come back to this another day.

6. “College rodeo is the experience of a lifetime that you’ll never forget” 

True! I always like to leave things on a good note and this seemed to be the only way I was going to get some sleep after #5 *insert eye roll here. On a more serious note, college rodeo has been one of the best things I have ever experienced. Coming all the way from Canada to New Mexico to rodeo for a university definitely wasn’t a small decision to make, but I wouldn’t go back and change it for the world. I have made great friends that I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life, and the experience here has actually made me look into getting dual-citizenship and moving down here permanently after school. While trying to find a link of interest for this sub-heading I came across a NY Times article about college rodeo that warmed my heart. Click the hyperlink above and see if it has the same feeling for you!

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Presnell Proclaims Championship at ENMU Timed Event Challenge

By: Samantha Smith

Each year ENMU Rodeo hosts a timed event challenge where high school students, college students, and ENMU alumni are able to compete. Coach Albert Flinn is the mastermind behind this event, allowing college competitors to make competitive runs during a break between spring rodeos while also allowing high school students to showcase themselves. Alumni are also able to attend the event and see if they still have the talent to compete against some of the region’s most talented athletes.

This year’s timed event challenge, on Saturday, March 4th, consisted of many competitors – some old, some new, and some hopeful for a spot on the ENMU rodeo team in the future. Perhaps one of the highlights of the day was Taylor Presnell, 20, a student studying animal science at Clovis Community College (CCC), winning the barrel racing championship. Presnell competed in the long round of competition with a 17.303 second run earning herself a second place finish and a qualification into the short round later in the day. In the short round, she was able to add some speed and get another second place finish with a 17.200, earning her the average championship.

Presnell entered the challenge in hopes of seeing how well her horse, Dash, 15, would fair against some of the toughest competitors from the surrounding areas. Because she had competed in the arena prior to the challenge, Presnell knew her horse liked the set up and she had a chance at a championship. When asked about the experience, Presnell said, “It’s pretty awesome to compete with all the college girls even though I don’t college rodeo. It felt really good to win it and know all my hard work has paid off.” Being able to beat several of the Southwest Region’s best cowgirls as well as high school students and ENMU alumni is a tough task that Presnell handled like a champion.

According to Presnell, she has now owned Dash for eight years. When she first bought him, he had some issues and she had to break him down and re-train him in order to see if he would amount to anything in the rodeo arena. Presnell said the best part of winning the challenge was proving those who thought he wasn’t worth anything wrong. Knowing how much time and energy was put into the rehabilitation of this horse makes the win even sweeter in her mind.

When it was announced that Presnell won the barrel racing at the challenge, I was lucky enough to be in the building to see the reaction on her face. Though everyone is happy when they win, the smile across her face and the support she received from friends and family was amazing.

Though Presnell currently attends CCC, she plans to transfer to ENMU to complete a degree in animal science and pursue a career as an animal drug rep. Presnell also works part time at an equine rehabilitation center, Aquaterra Equine, between classes. Her boss, Kam Knight, has also played a vital role in Presnell’s success. After having her gallbladder removed just last week, Presnell wrapped her scar with several layers and persevered through a little bit of pain to compete. While she was healing, Knight and other employees at her equine rehab and conditioning facility helped prepare Dash for the weekend, putting him on the underwater equine treadmill and completing laser treatments on his joints to help him feel his best. For the past two months, Presnell hasn’t felt her best, and according to her, the crew at Aquaterra Equine played a large role in her success. Perhaps the best part of the interview with Presnell was her admiration for her boss, “Not only is Kam my boss, she’s my best friend. I look up to her in every way and I love her.” Presnell has high hopes of following Knight’s footsteps, even hoping to have the same career as an animal drug rep after graduation.

If Presnell attends ENMU as planned next fall, here’s hoping she puts on a black and green vest and hits the college rodeo trail. After her performance Saturday, it is apparent she has the talent and focus to succeed!

 

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Follow Up – Still Learning

By: Samantha Smith

 

In one of my more recent articles, I talked about what it felt like to learn how to win again. Now, weeks later, I’m still trying to tackle the concept. You don’t realize what you’re missing until it’s gone, or in this case until it comes into your life. When I count my blessings, I count my mare, Deana, twice.

If you didn’t read the post before this, I recently bought a new barrel racing horse and entered my first professional rodeo on her. We made a good run in the first round which qualified us into the progressive round at San Angelo, TX. To follow up with San Angelo, I ran in the progressive round on February 11th. Though my run wasn’t fast enough to win any money or qualify for the final round, it was smooth and consistent and I was extremely pleased. As it turns out, switching horses after running the same one for five years straight isn’t the easiest task to tackle. Every horse is different and because of that, each horse responds to different rider cues.

In attempt to allow myself to adjust and allow Deana to get used to having myself as a rider, I have been entering jackpots whenever I can. When I bought Deana, I tried her in a large covered arena and since then I have only been able to compete on her in indoor arenas. Last weekend I was finally able to enter a jackpot at an outside pen. I was nervous to see how she would work as many horses are different outside compared to inside. Not to my surprise, she was a rock star and got us our first 1D check, meaning we were in the fastest set of entries. Our run had plenty of room to improve and we still were able to make money at a large jackpot which makes me so happy looking towards the future.

This past weekend, we had our first college rodeo together as a team in Odessa, TX. The arena at Odessa is smaller than anything we have competed in thus far, and we had some minor struggles with the small pattern. Sometimes you have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture which is exactly what I’m doing as I type this. Though I didn’t end up making the short go, I ended up in the top 20 girls in a very tough group with an average run at best. Looking forward, and as Deana and I get more comfortable with each other, I hope for bigger and better things. I have no doubt that we will come back better, faster and stronger at the next college rodeo, but in the meantime we have some pro rodeos to conquer.

With a couple weeks off between college rodeos, I figured it would be beneficial to enter some more pro rodeos in the meantime. Over spring break, I have entered three professional rodeos in Arizona with one of my teammates. I have high expectations as per usual, but I plan on using these runs as preparation for the next college rodeo in Brownwood, TX.

Today I rode my old horse, Max, at a local jackpot and it did not go nearly as well as I had hoped. Usually I would be mad about this, but instead I realized several things that have changed for the better. My riding has improved, my attitude has changed, and I have realized that sometimes the best thing you can do is take a break from things. Tomorrow my parents will be taking Max to Arizona for my older sister to run for a while. I have finally realized that I can’t fix everything, and that someone else needs to take the reins (literally) for awhile.

I haven’t learnt how to win again yet, but I’m working on it and I won’t stop until I succeed.

 

-Sam

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Learning How to Win Again

By: Samantha Smith 

“You have no choices about how you lose, but you do have a choice about how you come back and prepare to win again.” –Pat Riley

First thing first, my name is Samantha Smith, I am from Rimbey, Alberta, Canada, and I am here at ENMU on a rodeo-scholarship. Both my freshman and sophomore years I was lucky enough to have success in the rodeo arena at college rodeos and other events. However, with some success I also found my fair share of failure.

Over the winter break, I was fortunate enough to acquire a new barrel racing horse. After a not-so-great 2016 it was time to switch something up, and that meant getting a new horse.

Growing up, I always had fast horses and I rarely struggled to succeed in the rodeo arena. Once I hit high school, I got my hands on “the fastest horse alive,” as I called him, and I quickly trained him to compete. He was good enough to win all through high school. My freshman year of college I was lucky enough to make the short round at the first college rodeo I ever entered, something some people never achieve. I then went on to win the Snyder, TX college rodeo the following spring, and compete in several more short rounds my sophomore year.

This year, things changed a lot for me inside the arena. My good “fast” horse, Max, came across some health problems, first mentally and then physically after he ran through a barbed wire fence. I was struggling to win and losing all confidence in myself as a competitor.

In high school, people were always quick to judge when I failed, and I let that impact me when I should’ve been ignoring the negativity and thriving off of all the positivity in my life. People expected me to fail, and then they expected my parents to go buy me a new, expensive horse, rather than making me fix my own problems. This time, I was absolutely set on fixing my own problems and proving myself to all of those who said I couldn’t. Well… If I learnt anything, it was that sometimes you can’t fix everything on your own.

On January 29th, I competed at my first rodeo since October ’16 and rode my new horse, Deana, at our first rodeo together in San Angelo, TX. Out of the 240 girls entered, we ended up tied for 58th in the go-round, which means we will get to make another run in the progressive performances, which start Feb. 11th.

Deana in her stall at San Angelo.

Learning to win again after losing for so long is possibly one of the hardest things to do in any sport. After today, I am starting to regain my drive and passion for this sport I love and I am feeling my confidence shoot back up to where it should be. Even after placing well among a group of very competitive and talented barrel racers, I still found myself picking my video apart after my run. In fact, not even an hour ago, my mom posted my video on Facebook because she was proud of me, and I texted her asking for her to not post my videos without permission next time. Not because I wasn’t proud of myself and how I did today, but because I, “Didn’t like the way my head tilted around my second barrel.” Obviously I am still working on not being so hard on myself, but my priority at the moment is getting my mom to quit giving me the silent treatment now that I have made her mad because all she was trying to do was brag on her daughter… sorry Momma Nic!

Did I win the rodeo today? No.

Did I do everything perfectly? No.

Am I happy? Somewhat.

Am I working on being better? Yes.

-Sam