The Manitoba High School Rodeo Association (MHSRA) allows youth to begin their rodeo education at age 12. And while competition basically follows the school year with fall and spring dates, being involved means so much more for members such as Shannon Jackson of Inglis, Manitoba.
“As a member, the MHSRA has given me so much. It has taught me how to be responsible, work hard to achieve my goals and how to always have a positive attitude,” said Jackson, who is in her final year of junior high eligibility upon becoming involved as a Grade 6 student. “I think the MHSRA and the cowgirl lifestyle are great. We do put on lots of miles every year, but I love doing it and having the opportunity to meet a lot of new friends.”
Before joining the MHSRA, the cowgirl lifestyle was somewhat part of her life. She got her first horse at the age of eight and was involved in 4-H and was competing at fairs since she was nine. Citing there were lots of kids in her area who competed in high school rodeo, she felt it was a great avenue to share fellowship and a passion for barrel racing and pole bending. Upon joining in the fall of 2008, Jackson added goat tying to her events solely after three rodeos, and last fall began competing in ribbon roping with partner Clay Bergeson of Onanole. She was also hoping to add breakaway roping for the spring season.
As the Manitoba captain of the Team Cinch Junior High Girls squad, she excels in the rodeo arena as well as the classroom, and is one of six youth in Grade 8 at the Inglis school. In her spare time, the daughter of Glenn and Terry Jackson enjoys volleyball, riding her horses, Bart and Girlfriend, and hanging out with friends.
Jackson has found the MHSRA to be a great experience from a provincial, Canadian and national level.
“The association teaches kids so many life skills as well as prepares us for rodeos on a higher level,” said Jackson, who lists Lisa Lockhart and her horse Louis and Lindsey Sears and her horse Martha, as favourite rodeo athletes. “Like myself, most kids are hooked after giving high school rodeo a try.”
Last year Jackson not only showcased her skills at regular rodeos but found both the national finals in the New Mexico city of Gallup and the Canadian finals in Virden, Manitoba as wonderful experiences.
And while she tips her hat to her parents in playing a huge role in her lifestyle (despite being extra busy with farm work in the spring and fall), Jackson has had many people on her side.
“While my mom was unable to be away long enough to take me to New Mexico, I owe the whole experience to Rick Cook of Binscarth, who serves as the national junior high director for Manitoba,” said Jackson. “As well, knowing that Art Cochrane and his wife Marilyn of Onanole were present at the junior national finals was a big comfort to myself as a competitor.”
Cochrane, who is the national director of the MHSRA, has helped many students including Jackson excel.
“Art has taught me that without fellow competitors there would be no rodeo and that respecting yourself and your horses is a key to success,” said Jackson. “Karalyn Bridgeman, a high school and college rodeo alumni, has not only been an inspiration to me but an awesome teacher. I hope one day I can be as good at goat tying as the Binscarth native is.”
From a timed-event perspective, Jackson, a 14-year-old cowgirl, lists hard work, dedication, being physically fit, lots of practice, and most importantly having a good bond with your horses, as key ingredients to successful runs.
The sport of rodeo has had a big impact on Jackson, much like the friendships made in and out of the competitive arena.