story by Lily Landreth Jaytyn Hash took home his first NLBRA world title at the 2019 NLBFR last summer in the team roping, a victory […]
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Meet the Member Merit Van Horn
story by Lily Weinacht
Senior Boy World Champion Tie-Down Roper
“My game plan was just to go make the very best run I could on the calf I had drawn,” says Merit Van Horn, the 2018 NLBRA Senior Boy World Champion Tie-Down Roper. “All you can do is focus on what you can control. I wasn’t worried about making any smoking runs, just real good runs, and I think that applies to every situation—good runs and looking at the average.” The 18-year-old’s steadiness through the average helped him earn his first world title in the NLBRA, all while competing back and forth between the NLBFR and IFYR.
Merit, who is the youngest of four children, started competing in the NLBRA eight years ago. His brother, Lane, who is married to Emily, and his sisters, Linzie and Erin, also rodeoed. The Van Horns make their home near Page, Nebraska, but Merit qualified for the 2018 NLBFR in South Dakota, competing in Sioux Falls, Rapid City, and Belle Fourche. “The NLBRA rodeo at Torrington is a really good one,” Merit adds. “They always put on a really good rodeo there and it’s a super nice facility. My dad (Alan Van Horn) roped calves later in life, and my mom (Trudie Van Horn) didn’t rodeo but she’s always been involved in it.” She works hard to make things happen so it all falls into place. “Dad and mom gave each one of us kids an opportunity to get into rodeo and it’s been a good deal. I gravitate to roping calves, but I team rope as well.”
During the summer, Merit puts in 3–4 hours in the roping pen 6 days a week, either roping early in the morning before they start ranch work, or practicing later in the day after the work is done. “Dad has given us some really big opportunities in the fact that he’ll never turn you down—if you want to rope some calves, Dad will always turn them out for you,” says Merit. “I probably wouldn’t have the drive that I do without Jesus Christ. A couple I verses I really enjoy and dwell on are Proverbs 12:1 and Proverbs 16:3. Without Jesus Christ there’s no need to be doing my best in anything, but that’s my drive is to wake up every morning and try to commit to the Lord what I’m doing. I think rodeoing is a really good opportunity to spread the word and be a good witness.”
With the foundation of skills Merit built in the NLBRA, he’s now attending Frank Phillips College in Borger, Texas, on a rodeo scholarship. “Kaylee Moyer is the coach there, and she did Little Britches too. That’s been a really good opportunity to go up there, and she’s got the right intentions. It’s not all just about the rodeoing, but it boils down to the real meaning of rodeo and why we try to be successful in anything.” Additionally, Merit is working through the college’s two-year welding program, and he does day labor for ranches in the area when he has extra time. His horses, Stewart and Elwood, are also at school with him. Stewart, his 9-year-old calf horse, came from Stewart Hoar in Pine Bluff, Wyoming, while Elwood, his head horse, came from Pfitzer Ranch. Stewart was started on breakaway roping and Merit trained him for tie-down roping and rode him through Little Britches and Nebraska High School rodeos.
One of Merit’s goals is to continue college rodeoing and qualify for the CNFR in tie-down roping. “It really just boils down to trying to be the very best I can be. I try to concentrate on right now and what I can be doing to get better, and putting in the hours, and the rest will take care of itself.”