Meet the Member Wes Bray
story by Lily Weinacht Wes Bray clinched his goal for his final season of high school rodeo, finishing in the top 20 in the nation […]
story by Lily Weinacht
Emmy Ilgen is leading the girls cutting in the WHSRA, but the 17 year old from Banner, Wyoming, started her rodeo career in Hawaii, first entering rodeos when she was six or seven. For Emmy, who came from a year-round rodeo season, moving to The Cowboy State and a city that averages 27 inches of snowfall every winter was a challenge. And though she misses Hawaii, Emmy explains how much she loves her home at the face of the Bighorn Mountains. “My dad grew up in Colorado, and he wanted to move back since we have family up here, so we moved up here when I was in middle school. I miss the Hawaii weather, but I definitely like Wyoming. I also like the seasons changing here, which gives the horses a break.”
The Ilgen’s horses came to the mainland on a barge, and Emmy and her older sister, Tiare, started competing in junior high and high school rodeo. Emmy has since qualified three times each for the NJHFR and NHSFR. Their mom, Kathy, grew up on a ranch and ranch rodeoed, while their dad, Toni, rode roughstock, packed horses, and even ski raced. Emmy competes in all the girls events except pole bending, and she names goat tying as her favorite. “I really like all my events, but I like goat tying because the horsemanship is really important. If you don’t have a good horse, you can’t get down to the goat, but you have to be good as well, and there’s a lot that can go wrong. It’s hard to do well in, so I like the challenge.”
Emmy also enjoys hiking, skiing, and fishing, but calls rodeo her passion. “During rodeo season, I go to school, come home and practice, and repeat. I usually do Little Britches in the fall, and I keep my cutting horse in shape since we go to winter cuttings that count toward our high school rodeos. I really look up to Tiare, because she’s always been there for me and paved the way in rodeo. She’s college rodeoing in the Big Sky region,” Emmy adds. “My parents, and tons of my friends and their parents help me out too.”
The Ilgens have 20 horses in all, several of which are Emmy’s. She rides Sniper in barrel racing, Freedom in goat tying, Janey Rae in cutting and breakaway, and Joe and Stetson in team roping. Emmy heads for Levi Coyle of Riverton, and also ropes with her parents. “My sister is a header, so we can’t really rope together. We usually rope the Heelomatic. Or theory is, if you can’t rope that, you can’t catch a running steer.” The family also has several cows, goats, and dogs. Both Emmy’s parents are veterinarians, and Kathy works from her car, making calls at houses and rescue shelters.
Emmy plans to work in the animal or medical field herself. “I’m interested in wildlife ecology, or maybe chiropractic work or physical therapy,” she says. A senior at Bighorn High School, her favorite class has been college level human anatomy and physiology. “I’m taking a lot of college classes, but I find that one easier than English or pre-calculus,” she says with a laugh.
During the winter, Emmy enjoys snowmobiling, sledding, or skiing at ski areas like Meadowlark or Red Lodge. “I really like spending time in the mountains – it takes about five minutes to get to them – and in the summer we like to go out in the boat with our friends. This summer, I definitely want to make it to Nationals again in cutting,” she finishes. “Since that’s the only event I’ve made it to Nationals in, I’d like to work a little harder and make it in a different event as well.”
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