Story by Riata Cummings Grayce Baxter is a rodeo athlete and senior at Lehi High School. She enjoys “all things medical” and is currently taking […]
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Meet the Members: Brylee Allan, Birklee Jones, Annie Okelberry
stories by Kyle Eustice
Thirteen-year-old Brylee Allan joined the UJHSRA in 6th grade. Now entering 8th grade at Juab Junior High in Nephi, Utah, Brylee’s parents, Josh and Mandee, have encouraged her rodeo career since the beginning. “I’ve been rodeoing since I was little,” said Brylee. “As soon as I got to junior high, I wanted to join the UJHSRA. I really like the competitive nature of it.”
Brylee has an older brother Preston, 23, older sister Chaylee, 16, and a younger sister, Oaklee, 7. Brylee competes in barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, ribbon roping, and breakaway. She’s made it to state every year since she stared, something she’s extremely proud of.
“My barrel, pole and breakaway horse Dashing Skip is one of my best,” said Brylee. “I used Jesse’s Gambling Girl for goat tying and I’m training another horse, Don T.”
In addition to doing UJHSRA events, she’s also a member of the CUJR rodeo club, where she does dummy roping, barrel racing and goat tying.
Her parents are involved in rodeo, as well, making it a true family affair. Mandee is the secretary for the Juab High School Rodeo club while Josh is a judge in the UHSRA. One day, she hopes to make it to the NFR. “I normally ride every day,” said Brylee. “I ride an hour on each horse, so usually about three hours a day. I love horses.”
Even when she occasionally has a bad run, she maintains a positive attitude. “You have to have confidence in yourself,” said Brylee.
Brylee keeps her horses in a barn across the street from her home, where she and her friend go to practice. In 2015, all of her dedication paid off when placed in the top five in the average at UJHSRA finals.
“It can be expensive and it takes a lot of hours, but it’s totally worth it,” said Mandee. “She’s been on the rodeo trail since she was little. She’s loved it since day one.”
Brylee has been playing softball since she was 5-years-old. She’s on an accelerated team called Crossfire Softball and usually plays the pitcher or catcher position. She’s able to handle her schoolwork, extracurricular activities and rodeo practice with ease, which makes her mother extremely proud. Next year, she’ll join the UHSRA.
Thirteen-year-old Erda, Utah, native and Grantsville Junior High student Birklee Jones has the words “follow your dreams” stitched on her horse’s bridle to remind her to never give up. Her parents, Casey and Tracy Jones, have always encouraged their daughter to pursue her passions no matter what.
Birklee started riding horses as a toddler, and was highly influenced by her parents and older brother Brodi, 20, who was constantly riding horses. Eventually, her little sister Bristel, 11, followed in her older siblings’ footsteps.
“My parents were always very supportive,” said Birklee. “I started doing stick horse barrels when I was 5 and just went from there.”
In 6th grade, Birklee joined the UJHRA, the first step on the path to a successful rodeo career. Now in 8th grade, she’s focused on barrel racing, poles and breakaway.
“Barrel racing is my favorite,” admitted Birklee. “You have to work harder at it and it’s kind of dangerous. You go fast all the time.”
Last year, Birklee was the secretary for the UJHRA. It was an eye-opening experience for the studious young girl and really opened her up to more social situations.
“I met a lot of people,” said Birklee. “I made new friends and really had fun.”
While she loves being a member of her local Little Britches association and the UJHRA, she’s also looking forward to the UHSRA, which she will join next year. With her goals intact, she’s intent on making it to the NFR one day. “This summer, we’ve been to events in Texas and Oklahoma,” said Tracy. “We spend a lot of time on the road going from rodeo to rodeo.”
In addition to meeting new friends, Birklee loves the challenges that rodeo brings. “It takes a lot of practice and hard work,” said Birklee. “It can get a little difficult at times with school, but I make sure to add a little fun in there somewhere.”
Birklee loves to read and is currently reading the second book in the Harry Potter series, although she doesn’t have much time for anything else. She practices all the time. and it’s paid off.
“I made it to Nationals for the first time last year,” said Birklee. “I was the state champion of ribbon roping. It was pretty cool, especially since I won it with my cousin, Braydin Evans.”
Although she’s preparing to head to her next event in Panguitch, Utah, she still does her daily chores, which include taking care of the family’s 11 horses and tending to the arena on their property.
She helps take care of the family’s three dogs—Memphis, Fiona and Georgie—feeds the horses, and pulls goat heads.
At the ripe age of 13-years-old, Fountain Green, Utah, native Annie Okelberry is already a decade into riding horses. Her parents, Ann and Brian Okelberry, were already into the rodeo lifestyle when Annie was born. Her older sister Briana, 16, pole bends and races barrels, as well, so it only seemed natural to follow in her family’s footsteps.
“It’s just fun,” said Annie. “My dad used to ride bulls and my mom still barrel races. I started riding horses when I was 3 and have loved it ever since.”
Annie’s favorite event is barrel racing, although she also participates in ribbon roping, pole bending, goat tying, and breakaway. “I love barrels because of how my horse runs,” said Annie. “She’s really fast.” Annie won the 2014 state championship in breakaway and a year later, joined the UJHSRA. “It felt really good,” said Annie. “I was really proud of myself.”
Rodeo has instilled a level of integrity Annie believes wouldn’t be possible otherwise. It’s taught her about being honest, having good sportsmanship and always practicing quality horsemanship. The Okelberrys have about 50 horses on their sheep and cattle ranch, so she gets plenty of opportunities to learn. Often times, her sister is by her side.
“She helps me a lot,” said Annie. “She can help me with the gate when my horse doesn’t want to go in there. I’ve always looked up to my sister.”
In the fall, Annie is starting her 8th grade year at Wasatch Academy and plans to join the UHSRA her freshman year of high school. “I want to win another saddle,” said Annie. “I eventually want to join the PRCA.”
Her daily chores involve feeding the horses alfalfa, making sure they have water and then practicing for a couple hours every day. It’s taught her a lot about discipline, while rodeoing has taught her about resilience.
“To be happy, you don’t have to always have a good run,” said Annie. “You just have to have good horsemanship and learn not to be a
Every other Monday, Annie can be found at a barrel race in Salina, UT and every weekend, she attends various rodeo events, hoping one day to make it to the NFR. Her parents are happy to drive her and on the way, buy her all the Cool Ranch Doritos and blue Gatorade she wants.