Horsemanship brings life lessons to Shoal Lake student

From competition to leisurely trail rides, Paige Swain cherishes cowgirl lifestyle

Paige Swain, a 14-year-old student, chalks up barrel racing as her favourite event.

The cowgirl lifestyle is building responsibility and dedication for one Shoal Lake student.

“As a person the rodeo lifestyle has taught me so much,” said Paige Swain, who will soon graduate Grade 9.

“It has taught me how to interact with all types of people, responsibility and dedication to not only my wants but also the needs of my team members in terms of horses, no matter how I personally feel,” she said.

Swain has been on a horse since she was little. At age four, Paige Swain went on long trail rides in the saddle with her mom Shauna Gerelus and dad Cliff Swain.

Ten years later, she enthusiastically competes in three associations – Manitoba Gymkhana Rodeo Association (MGRA), Manitoba High School Rodeo Association (MHSRA), and the Manitoba Barrel Racing Association (MBRA).

Goat tying, barrel racing, and pole bending are her three main events. Swain said barrel racing is her favourite event because rider and horse have to build a bond and work together as a team.

Swain has competed in the MGRA since 2015 and won numerous awards every year, adding personal achievements within the MHSRA and MBRA as well.

“My first-ever MGRA award was with my horse Dancer,” Swain said.

She won a horse blanket for Hi-Point Pee Wee new member. In 2018 she won overall High Point Member with 301 points.

“Last year was my first year in the Junior Division,” Swain said. “I’m extremely proud to share that I won Reserve (High-Point) Junior member despite only entering two of four events.”

Over the years, Swain has also won Hi-Point Junior Poles, Barrels, and Reining at the MGRA level. She said she found Western Pleasure too slow and opted not to compete in that event.

As she gained confidence in the practice pen and gymkhana events, Swain became intrigued with the MHSRA. She joined as a hometown competitor at Swan River and Russell in 2018 and 2019 and afterward became a member.

Swain has found an extreme difference from gymkhana to high school rodeo, where the MHSRA serves up tougher competition and makes youth work harder to meet goals.

“My key mentors are definitely my parents, of which I’m extremely grateful for their utmost love and support,” said Swain. “Dad and Mom always make sure my ground within the outdoor riding arena is great, my horses have a pleasurable trail- er ride, and are on hand to cheer me on.

“Karen Bergeson of Rossburn has also been an important person in my life,” Swain added. “She has been a confidence booster, which I’m very thankful for.”

However, for Swain, who blends schoolwork and friends with her cowgirl passion, it’s not solely competition that keeps her on course.

She works on her family’s hobby farm and cares for eight horses, including ensuring they’re worked or ridden daily.

“All my rodeo horses are registered quarter-horses,” said Swain, adding that she usually hauls three to events. “Twenty-year-old Scat is my seasoned leader, while the two younger ones are of the ages four and six.”

She doesn’t have an indoor arena at her disposal but Swain doesn’t mind the cold weather. She takes her steeds for long trots and refreshing leisurely rides since competitors are often faced with all kinds of weather on the competition trail.

With a few years of school left, Swain is unsure of plans after graduation. Like many cowgirls before her, she would love to achieve a rodeo scholarship from a college or university within Canada or the United States and continue mastering her rodeo dreams.

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