Quietness may be a trait of a young Oak River, Manitoba girl, but only until you get her talking about the sport of rodeo.
Nine years ago, Hanna Kristjanson enjoyed the company of her first pony, Miss Kitty, and started leisurely riding at the age of four. Prior to becoming an avid rodeo cowgirl, she could be found on the backs of hunter/jumper horses as a member of the Brandon Pony Club.
Crazy about horses, the 13-year-old daughter of David Kristjanson and Deb Anderson looked at the Manitoba High School Rodeo Association (MHSRA) as a great avenue to make new friends while still having the opportunity to cherish horsemanship. Joining in the fall of 2010, the junior high cowgirl competed solely in pole bending and barrel racing. However, it wasn’t long before she added goat tying and ribbon roping to her competitive skills and is aiming to add breakaway roping in the not too distant future.
“My favourite event is pole bending because I like weaving through the poles at a fast pace and I like the challenge of having to leave six objects standing rather than three in terms of barrels,” said Kristjanson. “Pole bending is also my horse Deuce’s best event, and that just adds to the fun.”
The MHSRA is not all about competition, as prior to a student having that opportunity to compete in various communities across the province, he or she must keep their grade averages up. Students can also be rewarded.
“I am very proud to be named to the Cinch All Star Team,” said Kristjanson. “This means I, along with other team members, had to be in the top 10 in the standings and a grade point average of 86 per cent.”
One of the stipulations of being on Team Cinch is that students must be in good standing in their state/province association and the National High School Rodeo Association. There is only one spot on the all-star team for each event. The academic selection is taken from the top 10 rodeo competitors who must have a minimum average mark of 86 per cent. A committee then looks over the report cards of the eligible students and makes a final selection (one boy, one girl) based on their academic standing.
Along with her parents, Kristjanson is very grateful to MHSRA president Andrea Graham of Carberry for her support in showing her the basics of rodeo and finding a couple great barrel horses in Deuce, a 13-year-old black quarter-horse and Bill, a 20-year-old grade buckskin, who makes for a great backup mount.
Support is one positive step in success. Another is a favourite rodeo competitor, who is a star in the eyes of a young life. For Kristjanson, her top female rodeo athlete is Alberta cowgirl, Sierra Stoney, a five-time Canadian Finals Rodeo qualifier, Calgary Stampede qualifier, and Canadian Professional Rodeo Association season leader in barrel racing. Stoney is a vivacious young woman with an inspiring set of dreams. Starting her barrel-racing career at a young age, her homegrown commitment to her goals has provided the foundation for an exciting, passionate career.
Having her own set of dreams as well, Kristjanson is finding that high school rodeo encourages dedication, teamwork, responsibility, determination and above all positive friendships.
Currently enrolled in Grade 7 at Rivers Collegiate, Kristjanson is active in many different sports and activities, along with rodeo. The avid athlete plays volleyball, basketball, hockey and baseball, as well as playing the piano.
Being involved in sports from a team or individual perspective comes challenges and acceptance. In any sport travelling is all part of the game, however, Kristjanson knows full well that each stretch of the road travelled can lead to bigger and better achievements.
After the first half of the 2011-12 season that wrapped up in October, Kristjanson sat in second place in pole bending, fourth in barrels and sixth in goat tying. With the second half kicking off in April, the Oak River native is aiming for an opportunity to experience Nationals in New Mexico and also the Canadian High School Rodeo Finals, once again being hosted by Manitoba in Virden, this summer.
Giving back to a non-profit organization that gives so much to each male or female student who is passionate about the sport of high school rodeo, Kristjanson and her best friend Baylee Graham of Carberry are there when needed.
“I think it’s important to be an event director, because there are many different jobs to get done at a high school rodeo,” said Kristjanson. “Myself, along with everybody else needs to do their share to present a positive image to hosting committees.”
With the tasks being shared since its incorporation in 1995, the MHSRA has steadily grown over the years, showcasing an avenue of roping and riding of a talented group of student athletes.