Rodeo is a family-oriented sport. For proof, look to the members of the Bridgeman family and their achievements from an equine and rodeo perspective.
Family-run farms, where great pride and care in raising quality horses, all began with Ken Bridgeman in the mid-1960s when he made a life-changing decision. Selling his dairy herd, he decided to reinvest in horses and join the PMU industry. He and wife Jane raised five children – three sons, Kirk, Kevin and Kelly and two daughters, Kim and Keneen – with most of them still involved in horses in some way.
A strong supporter of the 4-H movement, Ken made his riding arena at KJ5 Ranch near Rapid City available to 4-H Horse Club members whenever it was needed. Ken, a Hall of Fame member of the Appaloosa Club of Canada who passed away in November 2005, and Jane, who passed away in May 2009, also enjoyed watching their grandchildren compete at horse shows and as members of the Manitoba High School Rodeo Association (MHSRA).
So far six grandchildren – Kristy Bridgeman, Justin, Karalyn and Kassidy Bridgeman, Kelsey Lane, and Halee Bridgeman, are among graduates of the MHSRA.
And while Halee, who graduated from Rivers Collegiate this year, became the sixth grandchild to join the growing alumni list, parents Kelly and Myra Bridgeman of Rivers, will continue on the high school rodeo trail as younger brothers, Logan, 13, and Beau, 11, have a number of years to cowboy up.
Besides being a lot of fun, rodeo allows growth, development and preparation for life in many areas. Being crowned the Virden Indoor Rodeo Queen in August 2009 was exhilarating for Halee. While she was the top contestant in the horsemanship category there’s more to the contest than looking pretty and riding well, as the teenagers are also asked to model, public speak and meet and mingle with people in the community.
“Being involved in the contest really allowed me to open up, use my speaking and people skills, and show off my personality,” said Halee. “I was so honoured to have been chosen and to have achieved my goal.”
On top of the silver crown, she was awarded a number of beautiful prizes from sponsors including a trophy saddle.
Along with representing and promoting the Virden rodeo and Western Daze weekend, Halee also visited the Westman community last year as a member of Team Manitoba at the Canadian High School Rodeo Finals (CHSRF). She was among the 31 senior students from across the province to compete against counterparts from Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan for a Canadian championship.
Competition is only one avenue in which male and female students become stronger participants in the rodeo arena. Other areas are the lifelong friendships, personal goals being met, and the opportunity to show off the athleticism of their horses. But there are also trials and tribulations that challenge the desire to succeed. Battling back from surgery to repair a torn ACL in her knee, Halee earned the right to compete in her favourite event – goat tying – and breakaway roping at the Canadians.
“Racing into an arena, leaping off a horse on the fly and tying your draw (goat) gives me the biggest thrill as a competitor,” said Halee. “I love trying to beat my fastest time with each run, no matter the community or ground conditions.”
With the Canadians unfolding in Virden, history was made on two fronts – it was the first time the prestigious event was held on Manitoba soil and the first time the junior high division was included.
Developing skills each year, Halee has been helped along from a practice pen to the competitive arena by a number of people, including her parents.
“Dad has trained and shown horses his whole life. He grew up on and ran his own equine ranch. They are both supportive of what us kids want to do and spend their weekends getting us to rodeos or barrel-racing events.”
She also feels very lucky to receive help and encouragement from her cousin Kristy, whose personal drive to become a strong competitor and develop tremendous horsemanship skills, has also aided in her own conquests.
“Always there to give without expecting anything in return, Kristy’s wealth of experience has helped me tremendously as a rodeo competitor,” said Halee, who will attend Brandon University this fall to obtain her bachelor of science.
Ask any of the Bridgeman family members what the MHSRA means to them and they will likely all agree – fun filled, worthwhile, competitive, motivating, active and of course, social!