A younger age group is joining the youth rodeo family, with fifth graders being admitted for the first time.
The National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA), along with its affiliates including Manitoba will be welcoming the younger students to the Junior High Division as the 2021-22 competition dawns.
The change in age was brought forth as a result of discussion during the association’s annual mid-winter meeting. Boys and girls in this grade will be able to compete in any of the Junior High (JH) Division events. They will be able to compete for all-around titles, state/provincial titles, and qualify for the National JH Finals Rodeo.
“This topic is one I have personally presented for the past few years, so getting this approved feels great,” said NHSRA executive director James Higginbotham. “We try to make all of high school rodeo a welcoming family experience and we are hoping this adds to it. I think it’s safe to say there might be a few happy younger siblings who get to participate on rodeo weekends, rather than watch their older siblings.”
Goals of each student competing vary. Some may want to become an officer at the provincial or national level, others may want to grow into a college rodeo athlete, but no matter the goal, high school rodeo athletes enjoy giving back to communities through a variety of volunteer hours.
No matter the level, professional and champion athletes, preach horsemanship as the key factor in perfecting skills within roping and running timed events. Kids may be able to handle a lariat, however, horsemanship may be overlooked, as it’s a package deal in the competition arena. To be good at what they love, students must be prepared to learn how to ride a horse better, and not drift away from practising the knowledge shared, on a regular basis.
Since 1995, a great contingent of Manitoba students have had the opportunity to travel down into the United States, across Canada or right at home in Manitoba, when the Canadian finals were hosted by the community of Virden and the MHSRA. The best of the best, showcased talents, spurring, roping, riding, and congregating as one, sitting high on the steel chutes and standing low next to the calf pens. Truly it was a time of their life and for those standing on the rail.
Life in the fast lane is a blend of competition, membership, and friendship, spurring on growth as a better leader and competitor. From rags to riches, the sport of rodeo brings out the best of families, who realize that skill comes from talent, and greatness comes from practice.