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Meet the Member Makayla Henson
story by Lindsay King
No matter the number of steps propelling her backward, Makayla Henson knows the step forward will always be bigger. It’s this sage advice that has gotten the 16-year-old from Belen, New Mexico, through the highs and lows of both life and rodeo. “My parents (Abe and Christine) competed in rodeo when they were younger, so it was in my blood. They took a break from it for a bit and when I was 8 years old my dad bought me a pony. It just took off from there,” said the 2019-2020 NMHSRA queen. Proper horsemanship was important to Makayla from the very beginning, which is why it took her awhile to do more than just ride at home.
She started out with halter and trail classes in her local 4-H club. Makayla was exposed to barrel racing through her trainer at the time. She took up rodeo full time just four years ago as a result. “My trainer’s wife used to run barrels and I really wanted to try it. My trainer taught me all the basics and how to make my own horses.” Makayla is still making barrel runs with the horse she first took through the clover leaf pattern. This rodeo queen isn’t just a one-trick wonder though, she also enjoys competing in pole bending. However, the queen contest is her favorite aspect of rodeo.
“Not only are you getting to compete in rodeo in the queen contest, but you are also getting to tell people about it.” Makayla has her mom to thank for introducing her to the world of rodeo queening. “My mom wanted me to get into it so I could grow my confidence as a rider and a person after I had a bad fall on a horse that year.” At 11 years old, Makayla found herself in a deep ditch with an older horse that struggled to get back to high ground. Makayla was thrown off in the incident and even though the physical scares were minimal the accident certainly left a mark on the young rider. Christine was right on track when she suggested Makayla run for the Bosque Farms Rodeo Princess title in 2017. Not only did Makayla win the title, but it also led her to run for the Valencia County Rodeo Princess title in 2018 where she met her role model: Staci Trehern.
Staci was Miss Rodeo New Mexico 2016 and finished as second runner up at Miss Rodeo America. “She’s been a really big inspiration for me because she taught me that anything is possible and that I can handle whatever life throws at me.” Staci is a talented colt starter and even broke Makayla’s coming filly this year. “Competing for a rodeo queen title really taught me how to be a well-rounded individual. I have loved getting to travel all over the country to promote not only rodeo in New Mexico but also high school rodeo in general.” Just six weeks after Makayla was crowned at last year’s NMHSRA finals, she headed to nationals to compete for the NHSRA queen title.
Out of 42 state queens, Makayla placed seventh overall, won Miss Congeniality and was 11th in the horsemanship. “I bought a horse a month before nationals and I planned to use her for the contest. I brought my barrel horse as a backup. Once we saw how small the arena was, we switched to my barrel horse. I was really proud of her for placing so well in the horsemanship.” Even though her rodeo season was cut short this spring, Makayla is looking forward to competing at state finals again for her chance to head to nationals in all of her events and once again represent the New Mexico as the NMHSRA queen.