story by Ruth Nicolaus Shylene Drumm is a five-time Colorado Junior High School Rodeo champion. This year, she won the pole bending, breakaway roping, goat […]
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Meet the Member Keenan Hays
story by Lily Weinacht
It was Keenan Hayes’ first trip to the NJHFR and the 13 year old from Hayden, Colo., thrived on the national stage, splitting first place in the short-go of bareback steer riding with Brad Moreno of Kayenta, Ariz., and ultimately claiming his first national title. He also qualified in the saddle bronc steer riding and bull riding, but was especially pleased with his performance in the bareback riding, which he also won the average in. Keenan plans to take the event all the way to the arena floor of the WNFR. “I also compete in the chute dogging, but the bareback riding is my favorite,” says Keenan. “I like talking to all the bareback riders. Even before I started riding, they helped me out, so it’s grown on me.” He met one of his rodeo idols, Casey Coletti, during the PRCA rodeo camp Keenan attended in Craig, Colo., several years ago. “He was one of my coaches, and we’ve kept in touch since,” Keenan explains. “I’ve also met Will Lowe – he held the door for us walking into the National Western Stock Show, and both those guys have helped me a lot.”
Keenan’s dad, Donnie Hayes, was the first to put a bareback rigging in his son’s hand. Donnie himself is a retired bareback and saddle bronc rider, while his dad, John Hayes, was the first bareback rider of the family. Keenan began his own rodeo career nine years ago and had his first brush with the spotlight in the bright lights of Las Vegas, qualifying for the first Mini Bareback Riding World Championship Finals in 2015, where he finished fifth in the world. “I had a pretty good time out there, and I think it got me ready for having that many people watching me compete, like at Nationals,” says Keenan. It took him and his parents, Donnie and Jackie, nearly 23 hours to drive to Lebanon, Tenn., where Keenan also joined in the dances and made a splash at the Nashville Shores Waterpark. In all, he returned home with a trophy saddle, three gear bags, and four buckles, which will eventually find a place of honor in what Keenan describes as a mancave he and his family plan to build. “It would be a place to put the awards my sister and I have won, and we could maybe watch TV and hang out in there,” he describes.
Keenan’s sister, Kaitlynn (16), is a member of the CSHSRA, competing in barrel racing, goat tying, and breakaway roping. She and Keenan started a mini bronc stock contracting business, Rocky Mountain Mini Broncs, several years ago. “We have miniature bucking horses that we take to a few rodeos,” says Keenan. “I’ve outgrown those horses this year, but now they’re helping me learn the business side of things. When I’m done riding bucking horses, I want to be a stock contractor.” He also owns several 4-H pigs and helps work his grandparents’ cows. “We have quite a few horses, and I’m training one of mine, Gator, to be a pickup horse. He’s a ranch horse, so I’m introducing him to the arena and my sister is helping me train him for roping. I’d like to start picking up our mini bucking horses on him.”
In addition to his rodeo career, Keenan will be an eighth grader at Hayden Middle School this fall, where he enjoys gym and welding class. “Last year we worked on horse shoe projects like making crosses, and we worked with the plasma cutter,” he says. Keenan also wrestles on his school’s team, and enjoys riding his dirt bike and hunting. Last fall – his first year of elk hunting – he filled his tag with a 7×7 bull elk.
Ultimately, Keenan’s goal is to go pro in the bareback riding and qualify for the WNFR. “That’s the goal that keeps me going,” he says, “and I want to ride in the Pendleton Roundup and Cheyenne Frontier Days.”