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Meet the Member Rylee Hardin
story by Lily Weinacht
“What makes me want to rodeo is the competition. I feed off of competition and off of everyone, and I don’t like getting easy money,” says Rylee Hardin. “I get to see all my friends that I hardly see, and I have some great horses that just make everything fun.” Her competitiveness paid off when the 16-year-old from Graham, Texas, won the year-end pole bending title in the AJRA last year. “I knew that I was at the top competing with another girl, and it all came down to the finals and who was going to win each day and get the points,” Rylee explains. “I run in the saddle that I won—it’s one of my favorites.”
While Rylee just joined the AJRA in 2018, she’s been rodeoing since she was very young. “My mom and her mom did rodeo before me, and I just started when I was young on a little pony. Then I started junior and high school rodeo.” She learned about the AJRA through her friends, and enjoys the flexibility to choose what days she competes on. “You can schedule around other things you need to do, and most rodeos don’t offer that. And I get to see all my friends I’ve known for years.” She also runs barrels in the AJRA, but her pole horse makes that event especially fun. Additionally, Rylee competes in the UPRA, KJRA, and some WPRA rodeos, and qualified for The American Semi-Finals at the Glen Rose Classic barrel race two years ago. She made it to the second round, and now has her eye on qualifying for the NHSFR again. Rylee competed in the NHSFR in pole bending last summer as a freshman, and is working hard in the THSRA Region 3 to repeat her success.
Rylee’s 6-year-old sister, Adley, competes in the AJRA in barrel racing and pole bending. “We basically get on horses at the same time once we get home from school, and we’ll practice and then go ride out in the pasture. Mom is the driver and secretary and treasurer—everything she needs to be—and she helps us out. She got us started and our friends helped out, and they’re always there for me when I need them.”
Rylee, Adley, and their parents, Danny and Melissa Hardin, make their home near Graham, along with their horses and a variety of pets. “Velvet, my pole horse, we’ve had for six or seven years and she’s the queen of the household. I have a young barrel horse I’ve been training, Fro. I have two barrel horses but one of them, Peaches, has been hurt and we’re trying to get her back to competing. I qualified on her for The American Semi-Finals. We have another horse that we rescued and hopefully I can get him to start rodeoing, and we have a little pony I used to goat tie on and now he’s a buddy at the house.”
A sophomore at Newcastle ISD, Rylee also loves athletics. She played volleyball and basketball and is finishing track, where she competes in the spring relay, 800-meter relay, and the 200. Rylee enjoys going to the gym with her mom and playing basketball, and stays busy helping her dad and uncle with any number of jobs at the sale barn they own in Graham. Her summer schedule is chock-full with rodeos, including the Best of the Best Timed Event Rodeo in Gallup, New Mexico, and the IFYR in Shawnee, Oklahoma. “For rodeo, I definitely have the goal to get my pro card and get my name out there,” she finishes. “I also have college rodeo on my mind.”