story by Siri Stevens Tony Keeton started his company, Rockin’ K Rodeo in 2017. It’s not his only full time job. Tony has worked for […]
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Meet the Member Jenna Lee Hays
story by Lily Weinacht
“Rodeo is more than a hobby for me – it’s a lifestyle, and I just love it!” says IPRA breakaway roper Jenna Lee Hays. The 29-year-old from Weatherford, Okla., recently finished four years as the assistant rodeo coach at Southwestern Oklahoma State (SWOSU) University in her hometown. Yet for Jenna Lee, the sport has held top priority much longer than that.
Her grandfather, dad, and brother have all rodeoed, and Jenna Lee followed suit, starting with junior rodeos as a kid and working her way up. Jenna Lee’s mom, Sherri Hays, competed in barrel racing jackpots with her, and it was her brother, Ty Hays, who influenced her in roping, while her dad, Drew Hays used to steer wrestle and ride bareback horses. While Jenna Lee competed in everything from barrel racing to pole bending and goat tying, the roping events were her strongest. “Since my brother is a roper, it was more natural for me to pursue roping than barrel racing. Plus, I love the athleticism of the horses, and watching a nice horse work is pretty cool,” Jenna Lee adds.
Following four years of rodeoing for SWOSU, Jenna Lee finished her degree in marketing before serving as the assistant rodeo coach and earning a master’s in sports management. She stepped down from the position in March with plans to pursue a nursing degree this winter. “I’m going to miss coaching, but I felt like it was time for me to move on to the next stage of my life,” says Jenna Lee.
In between school and rodeo, Jenna Lee helps her family on their ranch, located not far from Weatherford. “We ranch all year – we have cows turned out on wheat pasture in the winter and grass in the summer,” she explains. “Plus, I practice three to four times a week – we have an outdoor arena and an indoor lane to practice in. But I also feel like the mental aspect and visualizing my runs is just as important if not more than practicing on an actual horse.” Jenna Lee’s roping horse is a sorrel gelding named Cricket. “He’s got a lot of personality!” she says with a laugh. “I think he’s a pretty neat horse.” Cricket has taken Jenna Lee to the IFR three times, while her two dogs, Scrappy Lee and Gus Ed, never miss a rodeo. Four miniature ponies and two other rope horses, Tony and Little Mama, round out Jenna Lee’s animal family.
Jenna Lee also enjoys travelling, whether rodeoing, or the trip she and her mom and aunt took at the beginning of the summer to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Her love for travelling is one of the reasons she joined the IPRA five years ago when breakaway roping was added. “I live in western Oklahoma, and most of the IPRA rodeos closest to me are in eastern Oklahoma,” says Jenna Lee. “My dad competed in URA rodeos over there and always talked about rodeoing in that part of the state, so when the IPRA added breakaway, that was my chance to go over there!” Jenna Lee often travels with her brother, who recently started competing in the IPRA again after a ten year hiatus from rodeoing.
Having qualified for the IFR the past three years, Jenna Lee plans to continue the pattern at IFR 46, her ultimate goal being an IPRA world champion breakaway roping title one day. “I want to thank my parents for all their love and support,” says Jenna Lee. “And thank you to the IPRA and the rodeo committees and stock contractors for supporting breakaway roping and having it at their rodeos!”