Meet the Member AJae Griffin
story by Michele Toberer Anna Jae Griffin goes by AJae, and the Mississippi native has been a cowgirl for a lifetime, and a Southeastern Professional […]
story by Lily Weinacht
Nickie Smith started competing in the SPRA when the association was formed in 2011, and today, she’s the SPRA Breakaway Roping Director. “The main thing is being the spokesperson and voice of the breakaway ropers throughout the year,” says the 37-year-old from Athens, Alabama. “At the end of the year, a big responsibility is helping with the sponsorships and promoting the finals, bringing in rodeo support, and making sure our event runs smoothly.”
Nickie has competed in the SPRA finals every year but one since joining, and as a rodeo mom, she’s passionate about sustaining the sport for future generations. “I’m all about jumping in there and keeping the sport of rodeo going strong. Without people that will step up to the plate, you’re not going places. The future of rodeo is our kids, and I enjoy the SPRA and want to see the association stay strong. We as a family can all compete at one location – me in breakaway, my husband in team roping, and my little girl in barrel racing. Over the years, your rodeo family becomes family, and that’s the camaraderie I like and want to bring my little girl up around.” Nickie also got to know her husband, Sam Smith, through team roping. “The first thing we did was go to a team roping pen and I wrapped some steers and turned him some steers, and I think he was kind of hooked from that point forward!”
She grew up showing horses and competed in all the speed events, and later college rodeoed for East Central Community College in Decatur, Mississippi. After starting nursing school, Nickie sold her barrel horse and focused on team roping instead. A few years later, her daughter, Shadda Claire, was 3, and Nickie’s friend Stacy Burney told her about the SPRA, which had just formed. “She invited me to go to some rodeos, and at the time, I had my two head horses. Stacy mounted me on her breakaway and barrel horse until I could find one, so that’s how I got back on the rodeo trail. I was fresh out of college and just starting my career. I felt with roping in general, it’s more about horsemanship, along with your ability. I was able to take my talent, along with my horse, and come up with a competitive skill instead of breaking the bank on a horse.”
Midget, Nickie’s 18-year-old breakaway horse, came from Mr. Steve Chapman in Georgia. “He makes an honest run every time. I’ve had several opportunities to sell him, but I knew the day would come – as in this year – that my daughter would need a good honest breakaway horse to rope calves on. She’ll probably be entering on him in the next couple of weeks.” Shadda Claire, 9, competes in the Alabama and Mid-South Little Britches franchises, as well as the SPRA. “When she’s home from school, she takes a few minutes to get homework finished and then we head out to the barn. I try to have most everything saddled by the time she gets home,” says Nickie. An RN, she works from home, training staff and nurses to use the medical record system. “Being a nurse helps with knowing how the records are, and bridging the gap on compliance and being able to use the system,” she explains.
“My goal as a rodeo mom is to support my little girl and make sure she has all the tools she needs to go as far as she wants with her rodeo career. At this point, if I get out there and make a few rodeos in between my little girl’s, then I’d be happy and honored again to go to the SPRA finals. If not, this year my focus as a director is to put on the best possible finals, recognize the breakaway ropers, and get support from the community to make a great finals.”
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