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 Emma Roberts
story by Michele Toberer
“I literally rode before I could walk,” says Georgia-born barrel racer, Emma Roberts. Emma was raised in Villa Rica, Georgia where her family owns and operates a guided trail riding business, Sandhills Trails. She’s spent her life on the back of a horse accompanying tourists on guided trail rides. “My family has about 30 horses that we use for the trail rides and my sister Haley, 30, and I have helped our parents, Hal and Lara Roberts, with the business during our childhood.” Riding slow trails was not quite enough for the horse-crazy girl, and Emma began barrel racing when she was just 6 years old. Emma’s dad rode bulls and team roped for many years and was glad to introduce Emma to the rodeo world. Hal now judges at many Southeastern Professional Rodeo Association rodeos as well as IPRA rodeos, as a senior judge.
“I still remember my first rodeo when I was 6. It was in Villa Rica, Georgia, at a rodeo put on by Charlie Lowry. I exhibitioned on a black and white paint pony named Alice, that was passed down to me from a friend. I walked around the pattern as fast as I could go, and the crowd went wild! I was hooked once I felt that energy from the crowd.” That exhibition run led to junior and high school rodeo competition, and although Emma also played soccer and ran track and cross-country, rodeo has remained a focus for her all these years.
Emma enjoyed competing in the Georgia High School Rodeo Association while attending Villa Ricca High School and made several trips to the junior high as well as high school national finals. Science was one of her favorite classes before graduating last year, and she is now a biology major at the University of West Georgia. She intends to further her education after getting her degree and would ultimately like to become a large animal veterinarian that specializes in performance horses.
The SPRA has been a big part of Emma’s life as many of her weekends were spent with her dad judging at rodeos, as well as her competing in them. “It’s nice because I’ve grown up in the SPRA and know just about everyone.” She has been riding a 14-year-old Quarter Horse gelding named Zip since junior high. “He is very strange, you cannot swing a rope on him, and he’s scared of his own shadow. It took him years to trust me, but now that he does, he takes care of me every time we go into the arena.” The pair just recently competed at their second Southeastern Professional Finals Rodeo and finished the 2017 SPRA season in fourth place in barrel racing. “Barrel racing is hard work. Every sport in rodeo is hard work but being able to know that the hard work you put in and the relationship you’ve built with your horse has paid off, is really rewarding.” Emma is very grateful to Terri Alexander for helping her not only in barrel racing, but in life. “I go ride with Terri during the week and she has helped me tremendously. Also, my dad’s friend, Ricky Norton, has helped me so much with my horsemanship skills.” Emma is currently working to season a 9-year-old blue roan gelding, named Blue, to be her next rodeo horse.
Emma is glad to attend college near their family home so that she can still live at home and keep her horses there. She plans to stay local while she’s in college, but after graduating would like to go out further and step up a level with her competition. “I’ve really had to pick and choose what rodeos I can go to right now because of college and homework. It’s great that the SPRA has a schedule that makes it possible for me to do it all.”