The opportunity to compete at the 13th annual National Junior High Finals Rodeo in Tennessee also offered a Sundre cowgirl the chance to bond with her mother.
“I can’t thank my mom enough for taking me and putting in all the miles to come,” Jasey Barnett told the Round Up during an interview after getting home from the lengthy road trip following the event, which ran June 18-24.
“She would always help me do chores every morning.”
The River Valley School Grade 8 graduate does not yet drive, so her mom Tasha tackled a lengthy road trip spanning roughly 7,800 kilometres with a Canadian flag-adorned trailer to bring along the family’s steed Doc, a 17-year-old quarter horse.
“We crossed eight states,” Tasha said, adding the haul took four days one way and that they were gone for about two weeks overall.
“And we managed to still like each other when we got back!” she said with a laugh, calling the experience an occasion to build upon their mother-daughter bond.
Involved in rodeo since shortly after learning to walk, Jasey has a lifelong passion for spending time with horses.
“I’ve just really always loved riding,” she said.
The young cowgirl’s first experience in rodeo was with barrel racing at the age of about five, when she also first started to compete. Along the way, she picked up pole bending as well as breakaway roping. From raising and riding to caring for the animals, Jasey said she loves everything about horses.
“Doc is usually really friendly. We get along really well ó he’s a cool horse.”
The team fared well in Tennessee, where Jasey said she ranked in 27th place for breakaway roping in the first go-round.
“He handled the heat really well.”
There were two rounds, each of which featured six performances. Although she did not place high enough in the standings to make it through to the second go-round, Jasey was happy with her result and remains committed to pursuing her rodeo career.
“I just enjoy it so much,” she said about the sport. “You learn so much along the way.”
However, the biggest hurdle to overcome when competing at a high level can be self-induced stress.
“I know pressure can make or break your rodeo career ó it’s probably one of the hardest things,” she said, adding that putting past mistakes behind and staying focused on visualizing success in the moment is crucial.
“If I’ve been having a little bit of trouble roping, I usually just try to picture the good catch or the good run in my head, and then just try to do that and forget about missing and just focus on what I know and how I know to do it.”
Although competing among the best junior high rodeo athletes was a big part of going to Tennessee, the trip was not all about business and she had a few opportunities to unwind.
“We went into Nashville and visited the Country Music Hall of Fame,” she said, adding there was also a big water fight between the contestants.
Along the way, she “met a ton of new people from the U.S. and Australia” and her social media connections flourished.
The National Junior High Finals Rodeo was hosted in Lebanon, Tenn., and the event featured about 1,000 rodeo athletes from 43 states, five Canadian provinces as well as Australia. Contestants in the world’s largest junior high rodeo competed for more than $80,000 in prizes as well as more than $200,000 in college scholarships, said a press release.
“She works really hard. It was a great experience having her go that far,” said Tasha.
“It was quite an experience to share that together and make those memories. I couldn’t be more proud of her.”
Jasey, who lives with her family west of Sundre, already has her sights set on the upcoming Canadian High School Rodeo Finals, which will be held July 27-29 in Nanton, where the top five contestants from each province will compete.
Two years ago, she even participated in the Sundre Pro Rodeo in the junior barrel racing event, and the cowgirl aspires to return.
“I’m hoping to next year be there if I don’t have any big trips.”