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 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 Rodeo Association member for the past three seasons. Her dad, Johnny Buckley has been a lifelong cowboy, and rode bulls and team roped. AJae’s mom, Donna Buckley competed as a barrel racer in her younger days but focused her energies on her children’s rodeo aspirations once she became a mom. AJae has an older sister, Ashley Sherman, and younger brother, Brady Buckley, that both compete in rodeo as well. AJae’s husband of 6 years, Justin Griffin, competes as a team roper and has worked as a pick-up man at SPRA rodeos for the past decade. Although she has competed in a little bit of everything over the years, AJae currently competes in barrel racing, and her main event, breakaway roping.
During her junior high and high school rodeo years, AJae competed for the state of Mississippi in the National High School Rodeo Association. She was a national finals qualifier in pole bending, barrel racing, breakaway roping, and goat tying. Besides rodeo, AJae grew up dancing; everything from ballet, jazz and tap, to hip-hop. Her mom is in her 37th year as a dance teacher, so she was a big influence on AJae. Cattle and farming were also big parts of her upbringing, as her dad not only had a welding business, but the family has always raised cattle.
After graduating from Prentiss Christian High School in 2009, AJae began attending Jones Community College in Ellisville, Mississippi, while rodeoing close to home. Once she was married in 2014, and moved to Newton, Mississippi, she began competing in the SPRA. “I’ve qualified for the SPRA finals both years so far. My rookie season with the SPRA was in 2018, and I finished as reserve champion breakaway roper. In 2019, I won the champion breakaway roper title. I’m working to qualify for the finals for the 3rd time this season but hope to qualify in both breakaway roping and barrel racing this year.”
AJae has ridden an 8-year-old sorrel gelding named Deacon these past two seasons and is grateful he has taken to the competition so well. “I started seasoning Deacon in 2018 and 2019 was his first full year of rodeoing. He’s pretty laid back and nothing really bothers him. My husband used him on the farm before I started competing on him. Justin has JG Cattle & Feeders, where he pre-conditions calves and runs cattle, so he starts the horses and makes them good using horses before we start hauling them for rodeos.” Pearl is a 5-year-old sorrel mare that AJae is beginning to haul and will run in barrels and breakaway at SPRA rodeos this season.
AJae works as an optometrist assistant at an eye clinic when she’s not riding or competing. She and Justin have a two-year-old son named Jace, who loves to spend time at the arena and on the farm with them. “He loves to ride Deacon whenever he can and loves being at the rodeos.” They look forward to continuing to share their love of rodeo with Jace. “Rodeo has taught me so much responsibility, and it’s given me rodeo friends that have become family. We’ll share rodeo with Jace, but if he doesn’t want to rodeo, we’ll be fine with that too.”
“I’m really thankful to my family for all they’ve done for me. I appreciate all that my dad did to get me started in rodeo, and I am grateful that my husband raises and trains some really good horses for me to ride. It’s exciting to see how many opportunities are coming up for breakaway ropers, and I hope that I can take part in some of the big competitions one day soon. None of this would be possible though, if God didn’t allow me these opportunities to do what I love, I’m thankful to Him above all.”