Secret to rodeo success, lots of hard work

Jayde Atkins, Broken Bow, is getting ready to compete this weekend at the 2013 Ak-Sar-Ben’s Heartland Invitational Scholarship High School Rodeo Champions Challenge in Omaha. She is one of Nebraska’s best in the High School Rodeo arena. There is scholarship money on the line … but even better, there are bragging rights. And Jayde this past year has already earned a few of her own, including All Around Cowgirl this past weekend in Broken Bow. She heads to Omaha to compete in Pole Bending, an event she also won this past weekend and currently leads within the Nebraska High School Rodeo arena. It is one of her favorite rodeo events, she says, along with breakaway. “I’m just starting to get pretty good at it, and it is a challenge as a rider. You can’t just sit and let the horse do their thing, it is all on you.” Goats and Team Roping are the biggest challenge. “In Goat Tying there is another animal involved and then there is that getting off the horse thing.” Getting dumped is a common problem. Jayde is a sophomore at Broken Bow High School. Last year as a freshman she competed at the National level in pole bending and cutting. She says rodeo started to come together for her about midway through last year. “I was having a good year, but about midway through it started to get tougher and that’s when I figured out I couldn’t make any mistakes.” Winning times in rodeo are made in hundredths of a second. “For instance, at our high school, a fast time has been in the low 21 (seconds) and at Nationals it is a 19. There is a half second to three-quarters of a second at most between first and 10th place. Getting a slow start isn’t even considered. In barrels, if you horse is running home and he doesn’t run all of the way home, that is an eighth of a second.” For Jayde, as it is many of the other high school rodeo competitors, rodeo is a family event. That is one of the reasons her family got involved.“Jayde has been riding since birth,” said Sonja Atkins, Jayde’s mom. “She was riding by herself at 2.” “I was probably out in the pastures bareback causing trouble trying to copy mom and dad,” added Jayde. Sonja went on to talk about their involvement with high school rodeo and its core values. “We were showing our horses, but switched to the rodeo thing for the kids because there were so many more opportunities to compete. We found that when you did win it really meant something.” She added that the same basic horsemanship events, the same foundation was required in rodeo as in show … “you have to control your horse and put it where you want it all of the time.” The mission statement of the National High School Rodeo Association says that it is an international, non-profit organization dedicated to the development of sportsmanship, horsemanship and the character in the youth of our country through the sport of rodeo. According the Nebraska High School Rodeo Association, if you are not succeeding in school, you are not allowed to compete. “The same organization has a junior high level competition, and that has been a good training ground for a lot of competitors,” added Sonja. “Jayde spent a lot of years sitting on the bleachers growing up watching (her older brother) Sterling compete. She didn’t really do the junior high rodeo thing much, but by the time she started competing in high school she was ready. She was ready at her first rodeo,” she said. “Watching her, I knew she had it together. She knows how to set a horse, she knows how to control. We are very proud and she has the necessary confidence,” said Sonja. “High school rodeo is very competitive. In any event there are half dozen girls who could win at any moment. “ Sonja speaks of her daughter with pride. “She doesn’t always win, but when she doesn’t she can put it behind her. She can move on … beyond the would haves, could haves, and should haves. She puts a bad run behind her and then goes out and gets a good run, and it isn’t just with horses. There is a lot of mental focus required in rodeo and that will carry on with her for anything she does in life. She is just amazing.” Jayde is a focused competitor, and compete she has. Jayde believes that one of the major factors that has helped her pull everything together has been that she had been able to practice, and practice a lot, and she has been allowed the opportunity to compete at all of the high school rodeos. “You have to be determined and set your goals. If you don’t have a goal it doesn’t work. Last year I felt good if I was good. This year I know what a realistic goal is, and I’m reaching for those goals,” said Jayde. This means travel, and hauling horses. They haul two to each of the rodeos, four if there is a cutting competition. And this is expensive. Sonja says there is a financial commitment to do it right, and to keeping the horses sound. They are very grateful that Jayde has a couple of sponsors, Trotters, Inc. and Edward Jones, who help her out as she travels. For Jayde, it means coming home when the events are over and getting back to work. Normally, before the season starts, she rotates the horses so that each horse is worked every other day. During the season, she likes to give the horses a rest day on Monday, and then get in as much practice as she can the rest of the week. She also has the young horses to ride. “I try and mix it up. I trained my barrel and pole horse, got him first as a roping horse, and the other horses, my roping and breakaway horse, my mom and dad trained from a colt. I always have another horse coming up. Mom and dad train horses and they understand. We buy younger horses who aren’t the best at what they do, and then train them to do all of their stuff.” The high school rodeo season is long, fall rodeos start in August and go through the end of September. Spring rodeos start in April and go through the National Finals in July. As far as long range goals, Jayde would like to go to Nationals again this year. “It would be such an amazing accomplishment to compete in all around,” she said, adding that she still has a long way to go. “I’m still a half second off the winning time in poles” … in a sport where you win by the average. For life goals, she wants to go to college and get a good education. She likes math. She has no idea where or what, but knows that whatever it is, she wants to ride, and she wants to work with horses. Jayde joins her fellow Nebraska competitors Sept. 28 at the CenturyLInk Center in Omaha to compete for one of 11 - $1,000 scholarships. The Ak-Sar-Ben High School Scholarship Invitational begins at 12:30 p.m. featuring National High School Rodeo Association champions from South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota and Nebraska. The High School Invitational will include all 10 NHSRA sanctioned events. Contestants were selected by their respective state “For 68 years the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben Foundation has been hosting a rodeo sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association,” said Ak-Sar-Ben Rodeo Chairman Beth Greiner. “To ensure the sport of rodeo continues to grow in contestants and attendees, Ak-Sar-Ben is increasing its mission and impact by giving scholarships to future rodeo leaders.” The scholarship rodeo will be produced by local rodeo volunteers. The 11 scholarship winners will receive their award during the Sept 28 Justin boots Championships Rodeo Performance that evening. Sonja wanted to add a thank you to all of the volunteers who help make a rodeo happen and to the business sponsors, especially to those involved this past weekend in Broken Bow. “It takes a lot of community effort to allow a rodeo to happen.”