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Meet the Member Abigail James
story by Michele Toberer
Rosepine High School senior, Abigail James will be saying farewell to the Louisiana High School Rodeo Association at the end of the 2019 season, after competing with them since she was a sixth-grader. Abigail competes in breakaway roping, barrel racing and team roping, heading for partner Coy Baxter. Having the LHSRA as such a big part of her youth has been a blessing that she is grateful for. “I like to see all my friends from all over, and in the LHSRA everybody helps everybody, no matter who your parents are, or where you’re from, if you need help, everyone is there.”
It was Abigail’s aunt, Shanna Thomas, an LHSRA alumna, that helped her get started in rodeo at just 5 years old, as her cousin Jaden was starting out also. “My dad grew up on a dairy and rode horses but didn’t rodeo. He raised colts, and my first horse was a 4-year-old black mare that he raised and broke. My aunt rode her, then I started competing on her. Abigail’ mom, Dorothy, and her dad, Kevin own a truck stop in DeRidder, Louisiana, and while Dorothy manages the store and restaurant inside, Kevin manages the mechanic shop outside.
Abigail now has multiple horses she uses for practice as well as her different events, but her main rodeo horses are Kate, B, Lexi, and Rabbit. Abigail has barrel raced on her big sorrel mare, Kate, for four years. She enters her favorite event, breakaway roping on her 14-year-old buckskin mare, Lexi as well as her 9-year-old sorrel, Rabbit, purchased from Shane Hanchey. Close to two years ago, Abigail started team roping, and has had the 14-year-old sorrel, simply called “D,” as her head horse since just 4 months after starting heading. During her junior high and high school rodeo career so far, she has qualified for national finals several times in breakaway roping. She competed at the NJHSFR in Des Moines, Iowa, finishing in the top 10 in the nation; competed at the NHSFR in Gillette, Wyoming her freshman year, and competed at Rock Springs, Wyoming last year, placing 5th in the first round of breakaway roping, and finishing in the top 20 at the 2018 NHSFR. “Before every breakaway run, I always pray, and I tie my rope on the left side of the saddle horn, never the right. My dad is always right there behind me, always pushing my calves, and that always helps me knowing he is there making sure everything is perfect.” She is hoping to qualify for the NHSFR one final time at this season’s end.
Before starting LJHSRA as a sixth-grader, Abigail competed in Little Britches rodeos as well as competing in the DeRidder Riding Club for nearly 12 years. “The DRC helped me get where I am today, everyone that put it on believed in everyone that was there.” As a senior, Abigail enjoys her English and math classes, and stays busy participating in FFA, FBLA, 4-H, and Beta Clubs. She looks forward to studying at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana next year, as she competes on the rodeo team and works to earn an agri-business degree.
Abigail appreciates all the support she receives in her rodeo endeavors, “My Aunt Shanna helps me with barrel racing, Bobby and Paige Abernathy help me with breakaway, Eric Aymond helps me with team roping, and my dad is always helping work the chutes.” She likes to look at some of the professional rodeo athletes, keying in on calf ropers like Shane Hanchey, a fellow Louisianan, and Trevor Brazile, who always brings it back to God. “You always have to believe in God, that He always has a plan, and always thank your horses. You should thank everyone that’s behind you because without them, you definitely wouldn’t be where you are.”