story by Ruth Nicolaus Sean Arellano loves riding bulls. When he started his Colorado Junior High School Rodeo Association competition a year ago, he said, […]
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Meet the Member: Rylee Finley
story by Lily Weinacht
Rodeo is intertwined with many of Rylee Finley’s earliest memories, especially since the 13 year old from Cortez, Colo., started competing when she was three. “My mom got me interested in rodeo, and since she had competed, and so did my sisters, I wanted to do it too!” She competes in pole bending, barrel racing, and breakaway roping, and although she enjoys them all, poles always rank highest on Rylee’s list of favorites. “I have to think about poles more, and they’re more fun for me, plus whenever you make a good run, it looks really pretty,” she explains.
Rylee and her sister, Cassie (16), who is in the CSHSRA, rodeo together in the Colorado Lone Riders rodeo club. They have also been a part of the Ute Mountain High School Rodeo Team, which was originally started by their grandfather, Larry Mooney, who was a steer wrestling hazer, along with working for the Beutler Brothers Rodeo Co. While Rylee is inspired by her family’s rich rodeo history, she has three role models in particular that have helped her. “My mom is always motivating me and helping me to get better,” says Rylee. “I also look up to Jenna Duhon and Rebecca Kenner. They take time out of their day to help me, and that really inspires me to get better. They live in Arizona during the winter and during Christmas break last year, I spent time practicing with them down there. It was really cool!”
The Finley family makes their home outside of Cortez. Rylee’s oldest sister, Whitney, is a freshman at Central Arizona College in Collidge, Ariz., while Cassie is a junior at Montezuma – Cortez High School. The sisters’ parents, Kelly and Lana Finley, have coached all of the girls in their events over the years, and they scarcely miss a rodeo. Along with her parents, Rylee never leaves for a rodeo without her horses, Handsome and Texaco. “I use Handsome for barrels and poles. We just got him about two months ago, and since he’s small, he’s really good at poles,” Rylee explains. “He has a light head, so I have to use my feet more than my hands. My roping horse is Texaco, and he’s kind of old but he’s still really good. He gives you your chance to throw, and if you don’t take it, he’ll stop and be hard to pick back up again. He’s lazy, but I still love him!” Rylee also has a miniature Dachsund named Frannie, and both she and Cassie show the steers they raise in FFA.
An eighth grader at Cortez Middle School, Rylee’s two favorite subjects are science and social studies. “We’re working on selective breeding in science, and for social studies we’re learning about Native American tribes and where they used to live,” she says. Although Rylee doesn’t play school sports, she loves to play a game of volleyball with her friends. The rest of her time is spent listening to music – pop and country – and riding her horses every day after school.
Although she won the barrel racing at the San Miguel County Junior Rodeo in Norwood, Colo., in 2014, Rylee’s favorite rodeo is in Montrose, from the quality of the ground to having her relatives watching from the grandstands. “Right now, rodeo is helping me get better so I can ride better when I go to college rodeo,” says Rylee. “My goal is to sit down better in the saddle on turns and make sure I use my voice and not just my hands when I ride. And I want to qualify for Nationals!”