story by Lillian Landreth Thayne Elshere represented South Dakota and his family’s favorite event of saddle bronc riding at the 2022 NHSFR this summer, where […]
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Meet the Member Layni Stevens
story by Lillian Landreth
Layni Stevens of St. Lawrence, South Dakota, won the goat tying at the 20X Extreme High School Rodeo in January. This was the 18-year-old’s fourth time to be invited to the 20X, but her first time competing there in the goat tying. “It’s kind of in the middle of winter, but once you hit that mark, you know summer is coming up and you get focused,” says Layni, who stopped the clock at 7.2 seconds. She’s also a three-time NHSFR qualifier.
Layni competes in all seven of the girls’ events in the SDHSRA and knows the challenges and rewards of practicing through South Dakota winters. “Since I was little, goat tying was the first event I really worked hard at, and last year I won state. Our state is known for having good goat tyers, so the competition is always good. You have to put a lot of work into it, and South Dakota girls are pretty tough rodeoing through the winter when it’s cold.” Layni also enjoys cutting, which she just started competing in last year, and is excited about the advances being made in her other favorite event of breakaway roping. “My family has always been big into roping, so we have a lot of nice rope horses that my dad and sister and I train. The last couple of years it’s gotten way bigger and more competitive, and I like that there’s more opportunity for women than just barrels.”
Competing in the SDRA and 4-H rodeo also keeps Layni and her parents, Jeremy and Marci, on the move. She practices in the mornings before school, roping and tying goats, then works her barrel and pole horses and any others that need to be ridden in the afternoons. “I spend a lot of time at Frank Kenzy’s house practicing cutting and reined cow horse. He’s been a lot of help. My sister (Josi) is home part of the time in the summer, so I enjoy when I get to practice with her. For the most part, it’s me and my little brothers, Clay (14) and Avery (11), and my little cousins who are the same age as them. My dad and uncle help us as much as they can, so it’s usually a family practice.”
Several of the horses Layni competes on were born and raised on her family’s ranch. Their stud, Streakers Starlight, is out of A Streak of Fling. The family sells some of the two and three-year-olds, but keeps most of the horses to compete on. Layni rides her mare Sis in the goat tying, breakaway roping, pole bending, and reined cow horse. She rides another trusty horse, Chester, in the barrel racing and team roping, and is riding a gelding named RJ in the cutting.
“Probably my favorite part of rodeoing is the people you’re around. South Dakota is pretty small, so you kind of know everybody, but it’s exciting to see them in the summer, and our state does a good job of putting on really good rodeos,” says Layni. “I like watching all the girls competing in the WPRA Finals. Each one of them has a different winner’s mindset, and it’s interesting to hear what they all have to say and watch them at work.”
Layni plans to make rodeo a part-time career once she completes school. She’s finishing her senior year at T.F. Riggs High School, where she enjoys playing basketball and running track. Layni also likes to go boating with her friends in the summer, but it’s more likely she’s on horseback. This fall she’ll start her freshman year at Gillette College in Wyoming, studying business and competing on the rodeo team. “I’d like to win the goats again this year in our state and the all-around too. Then next year, I’d like to make the College Finals my freshman year.”