story by Mackie Ford I caught up with Haze Kuykendall, an Oklahoma Junior High School Rodeo Association member and son of Justin and Mandie Kuykendall, […]
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Meet the Member: Paislee Bray
Story by Lindsay Humphrey
When 13-year-old Paislee Bray jumps in the truck for a rodeo, she’s accompanied by more than just her dad, Rance Bray. All three of their dogs hop in the cab for the weekend as well. And loaded up in the trailer is Paislee’s trusty stead, 15-year-old Bailey. “My dad got him when he was a baby and he’s about 15 now. My dad taught him to rope, and I trained him to run barrels and poles,” said the proud owner of the blood-red bay gelding. “I started riding him when I was 4 but didn’t actually compete on him until I was probably 8. He was the first horse I ever did a rodeo event on.” Paislee appreciates how soft and supple Bailey is when she rides him. He’s the obvious choice when her friends from school, who don’t know much about horses, come over and want to ride.
“I’ve been around Bailey all my life and I know that I can trust him. If we mess up, I know it’s my fault. My dad used to rope on him but hasn’t in a while because I’m using him for two events.” Paislee is in the process of learning how to breakaway rope but has a different mount for that event. Her dad has personal experience with roping but has had to learn on the job about barrels and poles. “Whenever I don’t feel confident, my dad is there to support me. He helps me practice and corrects my mistakes when I make them. He knows a lot about horsemanship and that type of stuff.” Some of Rance’s horsemanship skills come from his time as a professional saddle bronc rider. He made appearances at the NFR in 2000 and 2002.
The itch to perform at a high level runs deep in Paislee’s family as her cousin, Paden Bray, won the average at the NFR last year in the team roping and is going into it this year sitting in the top five. Perhaps this helps fuel Paislee’s desire to become a professional barrel racer one day. Even though Paislee enjoys running the clover leaf pattern, if she could become a professional pole bender that’s exactly what she would do. “It just think it’s way more fun to go through the poles. I really love everything about poles, but I especially enjoy when I get to go fast through them, and I don’t hit one.”
Even though Paislee lives in Amarillo, Texas, she’s been competing in the OKJHSRA since she was in sixth grade. Now that she’s an eighth grader at West Overpark Junior High School, she’s looking forward to her final season with the association. “There are a lot of good people in the OKJHSRA, and everyone seems to really get along. We decided not to rodeo in Texas because Oklahoma presented more opportunities to me as a competitor.” Paislee also competes in the JRCA and Little Britches on a regular basis. In fact, Paislee has qualified for the NLBRA finals two years in a row in the poles. This last summer she took fifth place in the second round of the poles. It was a proud moment for Paislee, Bailey and Rance.
“I’ve really had to learn how to trust my horse in the arena. I used to get really nervous, but once I realized my horse knew what to do and all I had to do was ride him and trust him to do his job things really got better.” That mind shift was about two years ago. “I started trying a lot harder and pushing myself more because I knew I could do well if I trusted myself and Bailey.” As Paislee gets deeper into the OKJHSRA season, she’s working hard to improve her times. Ironically, watching other competitors get fast times bolsters her confidence in her own upcoming run. This will surely be an asset for Paislee as she prepares for high school rodeo.