Meet the Member Ryan Bestol
story by Lindsay Humphrey “I’m not much of a planner,” said Ryan Bestol of his storied rodeo career so far. “When I get something in […]
story by Lindsay King
She doesn’t have the typical rodeo story, though Danielle Wray of Ord, Nebraska, has the standard love for the sport. Her dad’s rope horse training career with the AQHA put a rope in her hands, but the uncanny talent and work ethic came naturally. “My first memory of roping comes from going to horse shows, it is the first place I ever roped at,” said the 19-year-old college freshman. “I was 10 when I first roped off a horse but I started competing in rodeo in 7th grade when someone wanted me to head for them in the NJHSRA.” Without any hesitation, Danielle prefers team roping over her second event, breakaway. Roping steers is what she’s known and loved the longest. “Nothing beats riding a good head horse. And my dad knows a lot about the team roping, we work on it every day together.”
Mark Wray is easily the most influential person in Danielle’s life and rodeo career. He’s the one with calves and steers loaded when Danielle gets back from school and also her greatest motivator inside and out of the arena. “He is my biggest supporter and biggest critic at the same time.” Her mom Denise is the optimist, reminding Danielle of why she started in the first place. The two-sport high school athlete remembers coming out of the locker room after her 24-0 basketball team lost their chance at a run for state. “My mom reminded me that I still had a chance to win a state title that year. She was talking about roping. At the time I didn’t really believe her but last summer I won the breakaway at state finals.”
The internal struggle leading up to the final loop that sent Danielle to her first NHSFR, made the record-breaking victory that much sweeter. “I had two horses I could take to finals: Rockstar, my old breakaway horse that I had given to my sister, or Big Red Show, who I won the Lexington rodeo on just the week before state.” It was her dad who recommended taking Rockstar, and it led to one of Danielle’s proudest moments in rodeo. “I was grateful to have Rockstar on my second calf that dropped to the right, yet we still won the round. Rockstar waits until he feels me sit down to stop and that made all the difference.” Thanks to Rockstar, Danielle set the state record average time on three head.
Though nationals wasn’t everything she dreamed of, the once-in-a-lifetime experience produced Danielle’s fastest breakaway run of her life: 2.1 seconds in a jackpot. This past fall Danielle took her roping skills to the next level on the Midplains Rodeo Team. She studies early childhood education at McCook Community College. “I worked at a preschool my senior year of high school and loved it. I worked with a little boy that had William’s Syndrome. It’s super rare, but I spent the entire year working with him and I loved watching him grow.” After graduating with her associate’s degree, Danielle will head south for her bachelors. “We have an indoor arena at the house but I want to go somewhere warmer so I can rope more.”
The 3-year on-again, off-again NSRA competitor plans to teach first grade or kindergarten because of her love for children and the added benefit of having summers off to rodeo. “I loved high school rodeo because I got to meet a lot of people. At the amateur rodeos you meet people that weren’t in high school rodeo with you, but they impact your life just as much as your high school friends did.” Her sophomore year of high school, Danielle lost her right thumb in a roping accident. Though it never crossed her mind to quit roping. “I have invested a lot of time into it and it is something that I don’t go a day without thinking about.”
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