Meet the Member AJae Griffin
story by Michele Toberer Anna Jae Griffin goes by AJae, and the Mississippi native has been a cowgirl for a lifetime, and a Southeastern Professional […]
story by Michele Toberer
Her name may be Patience, but she doesn’t sit back and wait for things to happen in life and is a prime example of having dedication towards goals. Making a move to Buchanan, Georgia 4 years ago to start an equine business on the 40 acres her mom, Melissa Culver, and stepdad, Joe Culver, purchased, has proven to be a positive choice for the now 26-year-old Southeastern Professional Rodeo Association barrel racer. Melissa, a pharmacy technician at WellStar Hospital, and Joe, a retired Cobb County police officer, gave Patience the opportunity to start Heart Ranch, where Patience manages the barn, giving lessons, taking in horses for training, and rehabilitating rescue horses. “I stay busy at the barn and do what I can to cover the expenses of rodeo.”
Besides Heart Ranch, she also manages Tactical Martial Arts, where they teach Tae Kwon Do, and Krav Maga. “I started martial arts in 2003, when I was 9 years old and it’s been great. I’ve taken this year off from competition because I’m focusing on barrel racing, but I won two American Tae Kwon Do Association Southeastern district titles in 2016 and 2018 and was third in the world competition last year. Obviously with rodeo there is a lot of responsibility, but Tae Kwon Do has taught me to have a good work ethic and has helped me carry myself the way I do. I would recommend it for anyone, especially for women.”
Patience’s mom barrel raced before marriage and kids and was the driving force behind her interest in running barrels. In 2007, Melissa had decided to get back to barrel racing, after she’d raised her children, and once Patience rode Melissa’s new horse Bugsy, she decided that she wanted to run barrels as well. “My mom took me to look at three or four barrel horses and the first one we looked at was Willie, he plowed into all three barrels, was barn-sour, popped up with me, and I thought he was awful. After we looked at the rest of the horses my mom said she thought he was the one I needed, and I cried.” Melissa was right about the now 24-year-old tobiano paint gelding, and Willie has been Patience’s barrel horse for 12 years now. “Willie is semi-retired, but he still loves to run so I take him to run barrels a couple times a month, and I use him for my beginner lessons.”
Patience made the determination to step back from martial arts to see how far she and her gelding, Kelso (Frenchies High Socks), could go in the SPRA this year. Although she’s competed on permits in SPRA rodeos for 10 years, this is the first season she’s bought her card. Kelso is a 10-year-old sorrel that she’s owned for 3 years. “I’m a sucker for redheads, and we call him Kelso because he has the personality of Kelso from That 70’s show on television.” Her main goal this year is to keep her sucker out of the dirt, and push through tough times to make it to the end. “I still get in my own head sometimes, so I’m working on getting out of my own way and trusting Kelso so he can work.”
“Between lessons, the barn, a full-time job, and rodeo, I’m kind of like a lone wolf, so most of my friends are at the SPRA rodeos. That’s what I love about the SPRA, everyone is so friendly, the secretaries are nice, and they take care of their contestants. You don’t see a lot of clicks or cattiness like other associations I’ve been in. Everyone is always welcoming and willing to give advice when you need it.”
Patience appreciates her support team that fuels her towards her goal of making the finals this year; her vet, farrier, chiropractor, friends, and family. She’s also grateful for Alex Lanier of Phoenix Performance Horses for keeping Kelso feeling good, and the support of Cowgirl Cactus Company. “I really want to make finals this year, but if I don’t, I’ll try again next year. I’m just happy to be going at a slow and steady pace, it’s a marathon not a sprint.”
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