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 […]
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Meet the Member Ryan Johnson
story by Michele Toberer
Ryan Johnson’s affection for horses and riding began at a very young age and has become a passion that spurs her towards her future. Ryan’s grandfather, Ray Burd of Lavaca, Arkansas, is a retired veterinarian and horseman that enjoys spending time training colts with his neighbor, Denny Flynn, who is a world champion bull rider and the father of barrel racer, Ari-Anna Flynn. When Ryan was young, Ray purchased a pony for his 6 granddaughters, and Ryan spent hours mucking stalls and cleaning at the arena, to spend all the time she could with Princess and the other horses. Ryan lived in Birmingham, Alabama, 9-hours from her grandfather’s ranch, with her parents Jennifer and David Johnson, and younger sisters, Katie Reed and Maddie Kay. Her parents could not ignore the true desire their 6-year-old daughter showed for the equestrian lifestyle, and they purchased a horse named Midnight from Eddie Kilgore, just a few months after trying a horse on lease at a nearby ranch. Midnight was a black, 16-year-old Quarter Horse, and during the 5 years Ryan owned him, the talented gelding taught her invaluable lessons. Midnight was a gentleman at the gate and gave Ryan confidence and a feel for running a barrel horse. Ryan has ridden several horses over the years, and although not all were such pleasant partners, lessons were learned from each one. Ryan recalls a horse named Indy, “He was a handful, he would rear straight up at the gate, he wasn’t easy to ride but he made me brave, and that has helped me to be a better barrel racer.”
Ryan is a sophomore at Oak Mountain High School, in Birmingham, and competes on the school’s cross-country team. She enjoys math and is in the advanced math track, currently taking trigonometry, but mostly focuses on finishing her schoolwork to get to the barn after school. The barn, where Ryan boards her horse, is just a few minutes from her home and most days you will find her there teaching riding lessons to novice riders.
The 16 year old often competes at multiple rodeos each week and is a member of several rodeo associations besides the SPRA. The family is often headed different directions because of this, as David and Ryan travel to rodeos, while Jennifer hauls Ryan’s sisters to competitive cheer competitions all over the south. Ryan’s dad is the owner of a marketing agency, HF Direct, and her mom works as a surgical scrub nurse at Brookwood Hospital.
For the past four years, Ryan has been riding a grey Quarter Horse gelding named Cloudy. He was young when she bought him, and Ryan relied on her good friend, Sylvia Kinnebrew, to help fine tune the barrel racing duo. “He tries so hard every run. He will stand up in any ground, but if it’s muddy he’ll slow down so that we’re safe. He has a great heart and I just couldn’t ask for a better horse.” Ryan’s favorite win on Cloudy was at last year’s Columbiana Rodeo, put on by the Shelby County Cattleman’s Association and announced by her favorite announcer, Adam Gibbs. Ryan was recently named the Senior Miss Shelby County Cattleman’s Association Queen.
“I really look up to Jodi Colton, from Manchester, Tennessee. She is who I want to be! She is always on the road, I love her horse Solo, and I believe they are just unstoppable, they are on their way to making the NFR.” Ryan is excited that this year she will begin hauling with Jodi to IPRA rodeos. Another barrel racer Ryan looks up to is Kyndall Lecomte. “She is such a determined rider, always working with her horse. She is so sweet to everyone and treats riders of all levels with respect.”
Ryan’s future dreams are focused on running around the yellow barrels at the Thomas & Mack Center. “I know a lot of kids say that is what they want to do. But I AM going to be there. I will do anything in the world that it takes, no matter what, it is all I want.” Ryan appreciates her sponsors keeping Cloudy feeling good: Hides Products from Morgan Lawson, and B Equine Essentials from Chancie Bryan.