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 […]
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Meet the Member Makenna Balkenbush
story by Lily Weinacht
Horses are hereditary in the Balkenbush family, and Makenna Balkenbush has taken her love of the animals to the rodeo world, competing in barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, breakaway roping, and team roping as a header with Bryan Lemmon. “Breakaway is my favorite – I like the fast pace and the quick shot, and how it’s more about you than your horse,” explains Makenna. The 18 year old from Sheridan, Wyoming, is currently tied for second place in the breakaway with two other girls, while sitting fifth in the goat tying. She was reserve all-around cowgirl in the WHSRA last year, and she’s working toward her third qualification to the NHSFR.
Rodeo started with her parents, Kenny and Wendy Balkenbush, who team rope and barrel race, while Makenna’s grandparents worked in the horse racing world for many years. “I look up to my parents, and also Brenda White and Stan Williams. They’ve been around since I was a little girl to help me out and they’ve always roped at the house with us,” says Makenna. “My dad heels, so we rope together all the time in the summer. I think that the more work you put into rodeo, the more successful you are, and that motivates me to put the time in. I enjoy practicing, and when you enjoy it, it’s not hard to go do it.”
Practice is a nightly event for the family, who has an indoor barn to ride in. “The main five horses I haul for rodeos are Ruby for barrels, Showgirl in poles, Jasper in goats, Blueberry in breakaway, and Stormy in the heading. We finished my barrel and goat horses, and the rest of them I got lucky with – I’ve had them since I was a little girl. They’re at their prime, but I have some younger horses coming up that should be going good this summer. I’m trying to make them all-around horses so I don’t have to haul so many.”
Makenna and her parents live outside of Sheridan, running 400 head of cows, along with a handful of goats and roping cattle. “I help with anything and everything, but I really like feeding just so I can go out and be with all the animals,” she says. “I love our house, because it’s up in the mountains, and it’s really pretty. It’s also about ten degrees cooler in the summer and ten degrees warmer in the winter.”
It’s a 30 minute drive to Sheridan High School, where Makenna is a senior. She finished her basketball season with the Sheridan Broncs recently, and she particularly enjoys chemistry and lab. Of approximately 1,000 students, there are three other seniors from her school that rodeo. “I practice first when I get home from school, and then I do homework. We never have an early night, but depending on the events we do, some nights are better than others.” Makenna also competes in the NLBRA, WTRCA, and SDRA, and at the NHSFR last summer, she finished ninth in the nation in goat tying and the all-around. “The Jackson high school rodeo is my favorite. Everybody camps out for four or five days, and there’s the roller coaster and Jackson ski hill.” Makenna’s family has a cabin in the mountains they’ll vacation at, but her leisure time most often goes to riding and practicing.
“I’m going to Sheridan College on a rodeo scholarship, and I’ll be studying pre-law,” Makenna finishes. “I’ve sat in on quite a few trials and studied bigger cases, and I’d like to go into law school and practice law someday. This summer, I’d like to qualify for Nationals in barrels, goats, and breakaway, and I would love to be a national champion!”