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Meet the Member Emma Smith
story by Lily Weinacht
Emma Smith is a three-time Junior NFR Reserve World Barrel Racing Champion. The 17-year-old has represented her hometown of Pleasanton, Texas, at the Junior NFR every year since 2016, and loves the variety of experiences she’s come across while competing in KKP. “It’s super different having to run your horse on the second level and drive your horse up there, so that’s a totally new experience,” says Emma. “Kelly does a good job running it and communicating with us all. It’s a fun experience, because at the beginning, we have a meeting with all the girls and it’s so nice to meet all your competitors, and people from all over the United States.”
With two Junior NFRs under her belt already, Emma went into the 2018 Junior NFR with a modified game plan. “I knew I needed to work on my first run because in my first two years I didn’t compete like I should’ve, and I was never in the top ten. I knew I needed to work really hard on that first run to make it count, so that’s what I did.” Emma finished 2nd in the first round, and 4th in the second round and short go, and also qualified for the 2019 Junior American. Between performances, she and her friends rode the roller coaster at the New York-New York Hotel, visited South Point, and shopped at Cowboy Christmas.
“I love the sport of rodeo, and I love working with my horses and being outside,” says Emma. She and her 13-year-old brother, Boomer, who competes in the TJHRA, are the first in their family to rodeo. They’ve grown up helping her parents, Brandon and Marie Smith, run their ranch, and Emma started rodeoing when she was 7. She also competes in the THSRA Region 8, leading the all-around and barrel racing, and recently competed in the Texas Youth Circuit Finals. The family spends much of their time together hauling to rodeos, and making an annual summer trip to the ranch they run in New Mexico.
“I hope to pursue a career in barrel racing and training futurity horses once I graduate from college. We have started our own little breeding program with some of our mares, and Kay Blandford is training some of them right now. She’s going to start futuritying those, and hopefully I’ll work my way into that. My dad and Kay have very much inspired me and pushed me to be where I am today. My dad has always helped me with my mental game, and motivates and drives me. Kay has shown me how to work with horses and how to get in the game with barrels and stay at the top,” Emma explains. “I’d like to thank my vet, Doctor Marty Tanner, for all the help he gives us, and my parents for spending countless hours helping me be the best I can be.”
Emma’s main barrel horse is Bo, who has carried her to all three Junior NFRs. “He is by far the coolest dude I’ve ever been able to swing a leg over—he’s so honest and consistent, and he’s my style. He’s smooth and fluid around barrels, and he loves his job. I also have another mare we took to Vegas. Her name is Cheyenne and she’s a Jordon Briggs’ mare.” Emma and her horses also compete in pole bending, team roping, and cutting, but barrels is her favorite event. “I like the consistency of it—it’s always three barrels—and when you’re with your horse, you’re going fast and you’re connected.”
A junior at Pleasanton High School, Emma enjoys math and hopes to combine her love of math and horses in college. “I want to go to Texas A&M and get an accounting degree, and come back to take over our business. It’s very number oriented,” she explains. “I hope to accomplish making it to the NFR and being rookie of the year after I graduate from college and compete in college rodeo. And I hope to one day compete at The American.”