story by BreAnne Benson The first time Riley Isbell competed in barrel racing was in Waco, Texas. She was in pre-school, on her first pony […]
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Meet the Member Bayleigh Choate
story by Lily Weinacht
Bayleigh Choate hails from Cohutta, Georgia, but she qualified for the Junior NFR at the KK Run for Vegas in Broken Bow, Nebraska, riding a horse she got on for the first time just a few hours before the race. The event in April was twofold: the mare, Oh Boy Who Dat, owned by Vickie and Jerry Schnacker, was for sale in Broken Bow, and if Bayleigh won the qualifier, her family would buy her. The stakes were high, but 14-year-old Bayleigh kept her cool, clocking in a 15.378 run on Who Dat to win the senior division. Their time also put them second in the open race out of 260 entries. “I really like to jump- ride horses, so when I got on her, we just clicked,” Bayleigh says. “I just knew that it’s the same three barrels I run around at home, and I thought, ‘I’ll just go in here and ride, and whatever happens, happens.’ I was in the last drag, so when they called out my time, I didn’t know if I had won since I hadn’t been paying attention to the other times.”
This was the fourth KK Run for Vegas qualifier Bayleigh entered, but her first time qualifying for the Junior NFR, made all the sweeter by the new mare in her pasture. Bayleigh and her dad, Mike, flew home, then drove back with the trailer to pick up Who Dat. “Bayleigh has been working at this since she was 3, and that (KK Run for Vegas) was her first big win,” says her mom, Mandy. “She’s real sportsmanlike and has a great attitude, and she’s always wanting to help others. She’ll take a saddle off her horse and hand it to someone if they need it—if we can help somebody else, then winning a barrel race is just a bonus.”
“I’ve always done barrel racing, so I can’t image life without it,” says Bayleigh, who also competes in the GJHSRA on the Cinch team, where she’s leading the barrels and sitting in the top four of pole bending and breakaway roping. “You can’t look at the next barrel race, but look a couple years ahead and where you want to be then. If you work at it every day, eventually you get where you want to be. My dad or my mom drags the arena, and they both help me out a lot by being an extra set of eyes to perfect everything we can. They push me to be my best and never give up, and to stay humble, and they support me 100 percent.” Along with her mom, who is an accomplished barrel racer, Bayleigh looks up to professional barrel racer Sarah Rose McDonald, who rodeoed in Georgia with Bayleigh and her family before she went pro.
In addition to Who Dat, Bayleigh rides Jessie, a 4-year-old mare by Firewater On The Rocks that Bayleigh’s mom trained, and Feather. “Jessie has been running barrels a little over a year now and she’s already doing really good. We’ve had Feather since I was little, and it took me about five years to get consistent with her, but we started clicking and she’s helped me win a lot.” Bayleigh plans to take all three horses with her to Las Vegas, making a stop at Outlaw Equine in Decatur, Texas, to see their friend Dr. Harvey.
Her family also raises horses out of their stud, He’s Packing Six Bullets, and Bayleigh enjoys training colts. “I like to go to the lake and jet ski, and I like to go to church when we’re home on Sundays, but mostly I like riding the horses.” She also goes to her younger brother River’s baseball games, and their older sister, LeAnn, comes to watch their games or rodeos on occasion.
Before she goes to the Junior NFR, Bayleigh’s goal is to qualify for the NJHFR a third time, and work with Jessie on being consistent. “I want to thank my parents for making it happen,” she finishes, “and I thank Jesus for getting me to where I am.”