“While I enjoy all my events tremendously, if asked to choose one as my favourite it would be breakaway roping.”
– ALI MULLIN
Although Ali Mullin of Cartwright may be small in stature, she is riding tall as a member of the Manitoba High School Rodeo Association (MHSRA), presently sitting sixth overall in the high point standings heading into the final leg of the 2008-09 season.
For all of her events, Mullin uses only one horse – DC Hot Foot Poco, a 12-year-old sorrel quarter-horse gelding. Born and raised on her family’s equine ranch (the Clay Ranch), she has been riding “Foot” in everything she does (ranch work, 4-H, horse shows, rodeo, etc.) for eight years.
The daughter of Dan and Colleen Mullin is among a special group of 2009 graduates, as they represent the first graduating class of the Wrangler Junior Division of the MHSRA, an affiliate of the National High School Rodeo Association. The Wrangler Division is designed to reach junior high students during important transitional times in their lives, and to offer them the opportunity to be involved with the positive, family-oriented sport of rodeo.
Jumping at the opportunity to be a rodeo athlete in the fall of 2004, Ali initiated her competitive nature solely in barrel racing and pole bending, but on the second day added goat tying and breakaway roping. Since that weekend in Russell as a 12-year-old, the Cartwright student maintained her four-event cowgirl status plus venturing into team roping.
“While I enjoy all my events tremendously, if asked to choose one as my favourite it would be breakaway roping,” Ali said. “This event (as with most rodeo events) requires a great deal of focus and concentration from both horse and rider. It demands that the pair work together as a team, and it definitely challenges competitors to get better.”
While females don’t have to tie their draw, hand/eye co-ordination is equally important in breakaway roping as it is in their male counterparts’ tie-down roping event. In breakaway roping, competitors must track a calf, throw a perfect loop, which upon tightening will break free from the saddle horn, stopping the clock.
As a member of the MHSRA, Ali has been presented with numerous opportunities, as has her younger sister Quinn, who has toiled within the junior ranks for three years. That tradition may continue in the Mullin family with younger brother Von, as the raising of quarter-horses just outside the Westman community is truly a family affair.
“Chasing the rodeo dream, character-building opportunities presented have included dependability, commitment, determination, sportsmanship and confidence,” said Ali. “High school rodeo presents competitors with the opportunity to learn life skills (volunteering, organization, responsibility), earn scholarships and awards, and improve upon one’s own skills and abilities – both in and out of the arena.”
And while some students may look at the MHSRA from solely a competition standpoint, this pint-size cowgirl strong on talent has given back tenfold in and out of the arena. Along with being a student event director, as the 2006-07 queen and president of the MHSRA student executive this year, her spirit in living and promoting the sport of rodeo at the high school level has been a priority at the provincial and national level.
Intended to provide good, clean fun for Grades 6 to 12 students in an alcohol-free, drug-free environment, monitored by student and adult executive members, not to mention plenty of parents, the MHSRA at present has approximately 100 students enrolled across the province.
Since being introduced in Manitoba back in 1995, many outstanding male and female athletes have graduated, going on to higher degrees of rodeo from a rough stock or timed event perspective. For a number of students, along with gaining an education, rodeo enriches the lives of many Manitoba students on Canadian or United States college campuses. Among them is Whitney Harding of Pilot Mound – enrolled at Oklahoma Panhandle State University in Goodwell, Oklahoma – whose humbleness and determination has aided Ali in reaching her rodeo goals.
It’s not only in rodeo that this Cartwright honour roll student stands out as a competitive athlete and team player though, as she also plays hockey, baseball and volleyball. She enjoys singing (as a soloist and in two choirs), is involved in 4-H, and for the commitment it takes to succeed in all of them she has her parents to thank for the guidance, and her appreciation of being raised in small-town Manitoba.
– Darrell Nesbitt writes from Shoal Lake, Manitoba